Govt's Urged to Prioritize Early Childhood Development

1360 Views Kampala, Uganda

In short
The call was made at the occasion to unveil a new alliance that aims to make early childhood development a global policy and public spending priority. The aim is to give all young children access to quality services that improve their health, nutrition, learning ability and emotional well-being.

Governments, development partners and the private sector are urged to accelerate action and investments in nutrition programmes and to make early childhood development a development priority.

The call was made at the occasion to unveil a new alliance that aims to make early childhood development a global policy and public spending priority. The aim is to give all young children access to quality services that improve their health, nutrition, learning ability and emotional well-being.

The alliance is a brain child of the World Bank Group and  the UN children agency-UNICEF.

The objective is to support country-led efforts to invest in nutrition, early stimulation and learning, and protection, and to engage with communities to drive demand for early childhood development services for every child.

Advances in neuro-science and recent economic studies show that early childhood experiences have a profound impact on brain development and on subsequent learning, health, and adult earnings.

Children who are poorly nourished and nurtured, or those who do not receive early stimulation, are likely to learn less in school and earn less as adults.

Globally, millions of children under the age of five are at risk of never reaching their full developmental potential. One out of four children under five (159 million) are stunted due to poor nutrition, with numbers significantly higher in parts of Africa and South Asia.

Nearly half of all 3 to 6-year-olds don't have access to pre-primary education. In Sub-Saharan Africa, 80 percent are not enrolled in pre-primary programmes. "The time has come to treat childhood stunting as a development and an economic emergency," said World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim.

He added that failure to make the right investments in early childhood development is condemning millions of children to lives of exclusion.

"How will countries compete in what will certainly be a more digitalized global economy in the future if a third or more of their children are stunted? We can't promise to equalize development outcomes, but we can insist on equalizing opportunity," he added.

Emerging scientific evidence also shows that prolonged exposure to adversity - such as that experienced by children growing up in countries affected by conflict or households affected by domestic violence - can cause toxic stress, a condition that can also inhibit peak brain development in early childhood.

"What we are learning about all the elements that affect the development of children's brains - whether their bodies are well nourished, whether their minds are stimulated, whether they are protected from violence - is already changing the way we think about early childhood development. 

Now it must change the way we act," UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake said in a statement issued this afternoon.

The benefits of ECD programmes are particularly strong for poor and disadvantaged children.