Why Early Childhood Development is a critical component of the Post-2015 Development Agenda

In 2000, all 189 (at that time) United Nations member states adopted eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and committed to help achieve these by 2015. Now, as the end of the MDG era draws to a close, it will be replaced by a new sustainable development agenda that aspires to be transformational for both people and our planet.

UNICEF has highlighted the importance of early childhood development (ECD) being included on the post – 2015 development agenda, which I would like to share with you. Below is an excerpt from their publication: A POST – 2015 WORLD FIT FOR CHILDREN. Issue Brief: Early Childhood Development – The Foundation for Sustainable Development

In the first years of life, neurons in human brains form new connections at the astounding rate of 700-1000 per second, a pace that is not repeated again.  Therefore, a child’s first few years are an unprecedented opportunity in life to ensure early childhood development (ECD) practices and programs set the foundation for life-long thriving. Investing in early childhood development is one of the most critical and cost-effective ways to improve adult health, education and productivity. It also empowers women, reduces violence, promotes environmental sensitivity, and can break the cycle of poverty to create a more sustainable and prosperous world.

Disadvantage and lack of opportunity in this foundational period early in life are accentuated over the lifecycle, and persist throughout adulthood, with serious human, social and economic consequences for both individuals and their societies.

Over 200 million children under 5 years of age in low-income and middle income countries – and increasing numbers in OECD countries and emerging economies – will face inequalities and not reach their full developmental potential because they grow up facing a broad range of risk factors, most notably poverty; poor health including HIV/AIDS and malnutrition; high levels of family and environmental stress and exposure to violence, abuse, neglect, exploitation, and inadequate levels of care and learning opportunities. This includes risks that result from emergencies related to conflict, climate change and global demographic shifts through migration and urbanisation.

Therefore, effective ECD requires multidimensional governmental, societal, and familial resources and attention. Due to the role families and particularly mothers have in ECD, the Post-2015 Development Agenda must not ignore the need for there to be an increase in the proportion of children experiencing positive, responsive, sensitive and nurturing childrearing practices in safe and peaceful home environments. Families need to know about the importance of early nutrition, care and stimulation, when to bring a child to a doctor; to not physically punish a child; to recognize the significance of quality early learning programmes, and more.

Suggested Targets

  1. Ensure free and universal birth registration of children under 5
  2. Increase exclusive breastfeeding rates in the first 6 months of life up to at least 50% by 2025
  3. By 2030 end all forms of malnutrition, including achieving by 2025 the internationally agreed targets on stunting and wasting in children under 5 and address the nutritional needs of adolescent girls, pregnant and lactating women, and older persons
  4. By 2030 end the epidemics of AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, and neglected tropical diseases and combat hepatitis, water-borne diseases, and other communicable diseases
  5. By 2030, ensure that all girls and boys are ready for primary school through participation in quality early childhood development, care and education, including at least one year of pre-primary education
  6. By 2030, achieve universal access to basic drinking water, sanitation, and hygiene for households, schools and health facilities
  7. Recognize and value unpaid care and domestic work through the provision of public services, infrastructure and social protection policies, and the promotion of shared responsibility within the household and the family as nationally appropriate
  8. Reduce rate of violent injuries and related deaths of boys and girls by x%
  9. By 2030 build the resilience of the poor and those in vulnerable situations, and reduce their exposure and vulnerability to climate-related extreme events and other economic, social and environmental shocks and disasters

The objectives of Cotlands non-centre based early learning programme directly addresses suggested targets 3 and 5, ending malnutrition and ensuring access to quality early childhood development services.  Through our health and psychosocial support services, we are also able to contribute to the other targets by facilitating birth registration, promoting exclusive breastfeeding, and educating communities about HIV/AIDS. 

If you would like to know more about Cotlands services, please see our programmes or contact us directly on 011 683 7201 or at info@cotlands.org.