Investing in child health vital for development – experts

DAKAR - Early Childhood Development (ECD) has been identified as the number one social economic investment that will enable developing nations to quickly attain sustainable development.

DAKAR - Early Childhood Development (ECD) has been identified as the number one social economic investment that will enable developing nations to quickly attain sustainable development.

The revelation was made by various experts who gathered from across the world to attend the 4th African International Conference on Early Childhood Development in Dakar, Senegal.

According to the Director of UNESCO BREDA, Ann Thérèse Ndong Jatta, nations must redouble their efforts to confront challenges of poverty, diseases, malnutrition, children’s developmental delays and disabilities to raise strong citizens.

“Investing in young children pays off very highly because healthy citizens participate in national development. The quality of services offered to a child between ages 0-8 determines brain development and a strong foundation for the future.

“The benefits also reflect in reduced child mortality rates, quick realization of education for all and high productivity which are part of the development goals,” Jatta said.

The Minister of Family, Solidarity and Gender in Senegal, Ndeye Khady Diop also cited high-quality ECD interventions as the sure way to Africa’s development.

A 2009 progress report shows that Rwanda lacks a validated ECD strategic plan and has not yet adopted a pre-primary education policy as well, which are important aspects for children’s foundation.

The experts added that investment in children from pre-conception and pregnancy to 3 years is responsible for proper child development adding that it is the most important period of child development.

“The period of gestation to age 3 is the foundation for all later growth and development and if pre-term children and those developmentally delayed do not receive appropriate ECD services; they will never reach their in-born potential.

“It is therefore likely that they will become unproductive, depressed citizens and a dangerous force for future cyclical social unrest,” another expert said.

Despite lack of a particular policy on ECD, Rwanda is among the countries highlighted to have successfully introduced national policies on disability, HIV/AIDS and social protection that cater for children aged 0 to 8 years.

As part of scaling up such programmes within the region, the Aga Khan Foundation is also set to roll out the Madrasa school system in Rwanda to offer ECD services to children between 0-8.

“These programmes have benefited children in other countries like Uganda and Kenya so His Highness Aga has revealed that the same services will be extended to Rwanda within the next five years,” Masoud Ali, the Director, Madrasa Resource Centre in Kenya told The New Times.

The conference brings together 500 delegates from across the world including Heads of State, First Ladies and Ministers from Africa.

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