Worldwide 200 million children under five years of age are not achieving their development potential due to poverty, poor health and nutrition, and lack of stimulation and learning opportunities. The vast majority of these children are from disadvantaged households and communities in low-income countries.
Early childhood lays critical foundations for a person’s entire life – a finding demonstrated not only by the latest advanced research in neuroscience and genetics but by nutrition and child development studies and programme evaluation data, including data from AKDN’s own programmes. Investments in Early Childhood Development (ECD) offer outstanding returns – both in human and financial terms. Numerous studies have demonstrated the improvements in education, health, social development and economic growth indicators attributable to ECD. World Bank economists, conclude that, “well targeted ECD programmes cost less and produce more dramatic and lasting results than education investments at any other level”. ECD programmes help reduce the social and economic disparities and gender inequalities that divide societies and perpetuate poverty and are preferable to costly remedial action.
What are Early Childhood Development programmes?
Early Childhood Development (ECD) programmes are concerned with ensuring young children have a good start in life. They address health, nutrition and protection from harm. They offer opportunities for enjoyable learning and promote a sense of identity and self-worth. They enable students to communicate effectively and get along with others.
ECD programmes are about influencing people and influencing the contexts in which children are growing up so that the overall development of children is supported. Social, cultural, economic, geographical and political contexts are key. Within the lives of young children, “contexts” translates into the different environments which impact on them, including families, communities, health services, ECD centres, schools, district bodies and national policy. ECD programmes are about influencing these factors and addressing issues which undermine children’s development.
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