According to a recent series in The Lancet, nearly 250 million children in developing countries are at risk of poor development due to stunting and poverty. But the need for greater investment and action in early childhood development is not limited to just low-income countries. Disadvantaged children living in middle- and high-income countries are also at risk. UNICEF estimates that millions more children are spending their formative years growing up in un-stimulating and unsafe environments, putting their cognitive, social and emotional development at risk.
Investment in early childhood is one of the most cost effective ways of increasing the ability of all children to reach their full potential – increasing their ability to learn in school and, later, their earning capacity as adults. This is especially significant for children growing up in poverty. One 20-year study showed that disadvantaged children who participated in quality early childhood development programs as toddlers went on to earn up to 25 per cent more as adults than their peers who did not receive the same support.
We talk a lot about the fact that not all children in the world are fortunate to have someone looking out for them often on this blog. This is unfortunate because children’s brains develop at a once-in-a-lifetime speed during the first 1,000 days of life. In fact, a 3-year-old’s brain is twice as active as an adult’s. A loving hug, a nutritious meal and a simple game can truly boost a baby’s brain. Early moments matter!
With this in mind, UNICEF launched #EarlyMomentsMatter, a new campaign that we love, supported by the LEGO Foundation to drive increased awareness about the importance of the first 1,000 days of a child’s life and the impact of early experiences on the developing brain. Their #EatPlayLove strives to explain the science in a straightforward, visually interesting way to encourage parents and caregivers to continue to make the most of this unrivaled opportunity to provide their children with the best possible start in life. By engaging with families, the initiative also aims to drive demand for quality, affordable early childhood development services and to urge governments to invest in programs targeting the most vulnerable children.
UNICEF is calling for governments to increase investments in early childhood, expand health and social services offered to young children, and strengthen support services for parents and caregivers. Early childhood development interventions, such as the Care for Child Development package that includes training community health workers to teach families about the importance of playing with their children in a way that stimulates healthy development can cost as little as 50 cents (USD) per capita per year, when combined with existing health services.
Take action challenge
Watch the documentary The Beginning of Life, which shows how important a child’s earliest years are and how all of us – mothers, fathers and caregivers – can create the best possible environment for our children. Find out where to see it here: http://www.videocamp.com/en/movies/o-comeco-da-vida.
Read up on the Real Moments campaign and find out how to get involved: https://www.unicef.org/earlymoments
Support UNICEF to ensure that all children live a healthy, happy life by tweeting:
A baby’s brain can form 1,000 new connections every second. #EarlyMomentsMatter so make each second count! http://uni.cf/earlymoments