Due to forced migration, an estimated 50 million children are on the move worldwide. Infants and young children (under 4) account for 16% of their total number. A great risk, as the age range 0-6 is a critical period in the development of a child, and the quality of living and learning a strong indicator for future outcomes.

Children in refugee camps meet threatening and damaging surroundings. Safety, food, warm clothes and a decent place to sleep are scaresly provided and u
rgent responses are needed to prevent irrevertable damage and limitations to their chances of ever living a normal life.

As parent's personal wellbeing affects that of their children, there's an urgent need to support and them at the same time. Heavily affected by their own trials, most of them are no longer able to make decisions for themselves. Strong uncertainties about their future are further exacerbated by physical and mental exhaustion, stress and distress brought on by their sufferings.


What to achieve?
We recognize the vulnerability of infants and toddlers in these empoverished circumstances. We advocate for a better quality of services and we train professionals, so that they can provide the best possible services. Our work also aims to strengthen the capacities of parents, who often lack support to deal with their stress and must fulfill their parenting roles under difficult conditions.

We utilize long-time knowledge and experience on quality early childhood services, equity for marginalized groups and fostering social cohesion in order to mobilize and strengthen local capacities in hosting countries, to provide the best possible start in life for the youngest of those on the move and their families. We have worked on several projects serving young migrant and refugee children.


A Flying Start – promoting wellbeing and development of young children, especially the most vulnerable, in Europe and Central Asia
A Flying Start provided during 2016-2017 technical support to the One Response UNICEF Office in Berlin. ISSA together with partners and UNICEF ECARO, contributed to the development of a training package and Toolbox for managers, child protection coordinators and trainers of staff working in refugee reception centers.

ISSA developed training packages on child friendly space services, early learning and play groups, mother/father–baby groups and afterschool supportwith the special focus on embracing diversity. ISSA also played an important role in the so-called "Training of Trainers" sessions. These training sessions aided 100 refugee centers across Germany.
ISSA provided assistance to One Response UNICEF Office in Berlin in mapping and collecting resources for an online library and platform, which encourages information sharing and aids in language learning.

Lastly, A Flying Start gave the staff at reception centers, many who do not have a background in Early Childhood Development, tools to help young children succeed. In cooperation with Kinder Kunste Zentrum and UNICEF, ISSA developed Creativity Activity Cards to support and encourage creativity, play and parental involvement.


Building Bridges - Bridging the Gap. Supporting wellbeing, learning, development and integration of young refugee and migrant children in Greece.
In 2017, together with our member EADAP, we developed a report on the context in which young children in refugee camps were living and the actors who participated in their lives. The report included suggestions for the Early Childhood Development interventions which will benefit young refugee and migrant children through a follow-up project, Building Bridges - Bridging the Gap. This mapping project was carried out in 2017 with the support of the Open Society Foundation’s Early Childhood Program.

Building Bridges – Bridging the Gap project enables work in refugee camps as well as in the city of Athens, and plans to develop a model of intervention which will support a smoother integration of young refugees, migrants and their families. ISSA and project partners aim to create a model that can be replicated in other locations in Greece.

Project partners work in camps to support children’s learning and development by equipping kindergartens on the site and increasing the capacities of the teaching staff. These kindergartens will provide children with daily activities that will better prepare them to transition into the mainstream (pre)school education system.

In Athens, ISSA works with its partners to enrich the capacities of nurseries to attract refugee and migrant parents and families to enroll their children in nursery services, and to strengthen social cohesion in the neighborhoods/communities where they are located.

The project started in 2017 and continues through 2018, and is supported by Open Society Foundation’s Early Childhood Program. It is carried out in partnership with Society for the Development and the Greek Ministry of Education, Research and Religious Affairs, City of Athens, University of Patras, EADAP and Refugee Trauma Initiative.