The journey of parenthood begins with the birth of a child – filled with love, care but also a lot of worry and stress. Young parents contemplate whether they are feeding right, clothing and bathing right, whether the baby is warm, cold, hungry or thirsty. It’s a period of enormous gratefulness, affection and fear.

According to MICS (2013-2014) a lot of children born in Kosovo, battle with postnatal issues, and due to the fact that in rural areas, families with low socio-economic status struggle with limited access to healthcare services, a lot of these issues go unnoticed for days and even weeks. Parents are at times unaware of these issues, or when noticed, don’t know who to call for help.

‘Home Visiting’ is a program of the Ministry of Health, in partnership with UNICEF office in Kosovo, implemented by Action for Mothers and Children – focusing on alleviating pregnancy and post-natal issues, catching newborn illnesses early, and teaching young parents the first steps of parenting and caring for a newborn.

This program is now available in 22 municipalities, and nurses work tirelessly reaching approximately 15,000 mothers, fathers and children 0-3 years.

Two nurses, Adelina Puka and Lavdije Pozhegu, are among seven nurses who spearhead the program in the Municipality of Gjakova.

In these trying times of a pandemic, most health institutions have been overwhelmed by patients, with most non-vital services being suspended. “Home Visiting” however, has continued to reach families and children, with the nurses intensifying their work and presence in the lives of young parents.

Nurse Adelina beamed with pride while explaining how the program has flourished in the city of Gjakova. She said: “When we first started the program, a lot of young mothers would be reluctant to reach out. Now due to the work we’ve put in, mothers call us, asking for advice, help and open arms to just speak about their daily lives as young parents. We are very proud of the impact the program is having in easing the first step of parents into the parenting world.’’

Since the beginning of lockdown, the nurses in Gjakova have conducted over 30 first-time introductory virtual visits, with many families keeping in touch with the nurses even after the introductory calls, keeping the nurses updated with their children’s wellbeing, feeding patterns, and mother’s physical and emotional wellbeing as well.

Due to the pandemic, our nurses focused their efforts into reaching people virtually. Even though the nurses were unable to conduct in-person visits, the number of visits did not decrease. Nurses also shared very vital information during their visits on how to keep safe during the Covid-19 pandemic. Nurses were encouraged to share their success stories with their colleagues to motivate and help each other during these very trying times, in virtual groups that they created.

Action for Mothers and Children is so incredibly proud to work with our nurses in Gjakova and throughout Kosovo, providing infant care, physical and emotional support for parents and just a shoulder to rely on.

‘Home Visiting’ is a program of the Ministry of Health and UNICEF, aiming at providing home-based services in Kosovo municipalities as an approach to further improve the health and well-being of children by building trust between nurses, social workers and the community for a better family medicine system. Home visits help families identify newborn problems, including signs of illness and at the same time support the practices of breastfeeding, vaccinations, where we also contribute to the child’s growth and development in order to achieve the full potential of the child. With the home visiting program, our overall goal is to increase the knowledge of medical staff, pregnant women and new mothers in antenatal care, postpartum care, postnatal depression, early childhood development (0-3 years), the role of partners and other family members to provide support, expansion and empowerment of healthcare providers across Kosovo through training programs and engagement in educational activities. Home visits will continue to be conducted via phone and video calls until these unprecedented times may come to an end, and in person visits can continue.