Early childhood development

first_imgAccording to findings of The Lancet’s new Series, ‘Advancing Early Childhood Development: From Science to Scale’, an estimated 43 per cent – 249 million – of children under five in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) are at an elevated risk of poor development due to extreme poverty and stunting.This most recent finding is indeed shocking when one considers what this means for a country’s development and more particularly, the future of its children. Developing countries such as Guyana must therefore heed the call for increased focus to be placed on early childhood development, especially when it comes to allocating the necessary resources aimed at supporting the relevant programmes.On a more global scale, the findings in this Series underscore the importance of increased global commitment to early childhood development. Co-author of the Series, Professor Linda M Richter warned: “We now know how high the cost of inaction is, and new evidence makes clear that the time to act is now. We hope the evidence in this Series will help countries reach more pregnant women and young children with preventive and promotive services that have the potential to drastically improve developmental outcomes for children as well as their adult health, wellbeing, and economic productivity.”According to WHO, research shows that a child’s brain develops faster in the first two to three years than at any other time in life: “These early years are also a critical period of adaptability and responsiveness to interventions. When young children are deprived of nutrition, stimulation, and protection, the damaging effects can produce long-term detriments for families and communities.”In Guyana, there are weaknesses in certain areas in relation to early childhood development, especially as it relates to the collection of data. More often than not, the relevant data is not readily available to help policy makers and development partners design effective early childhood development programmes that would have lasting impacts.As noted by UNICEF in one of its previous reports, much progress has been made in terms of access to preventive and curative healthcare for children and indicators for immunisation reflect this. However, there is a concern about relatively high infant mortality rates.Further, chronic malnutrition continues to be a problem and displays significant geographical disparities. For example, the national averages for stunting are somewhere around 10 per cent but could be much higher in hinterland communities. Poor diet and repeated bouts of infectious disease in childhood are considered the main causes.The case has been made for huge investments in the first 1000 days of a child’s life, starting with a woman’s pregnancy. In this most recent report, the authors stress the strong position of the health sector in providing an entry point for early childhood interventions – especially in support of nurturing care.The sector’s ability to access women and children during the critical period from conception through early childhood presents an opportunity to integrate low-cost interventions, such as WHO/UNICEF’s Care for Child Development, and Reach Up and Learn, into existing maternal and child health and nutrition services.Interventions need to be available early.The authors propose several ways the global community can scale-up support for early childhood development services. These include: Encouraging the adoption and implementation of policies to create supportive environments for families to provide nurturing care for young children; Building capacity and strengthening coordination to promote early childhood development through existing health, nutrition, education, social, and child protection services; Strengthening measurement and ensuring accountability for early childhood development services; Increasing research, and fostering global and regional leadership and action; and Expanding political will and funding through advocacy for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).Certainly, the Lancet research is further proof that much more needs to be done by governments and policy makers in developing countries with the support of other international development partners to ensure that our children are given the best care and support, beginning with the earliest stages of their lives.What children experience in the earliest days and years of life has a tremendous impact on shaping and defining their future.last_img

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