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Investing in early child survival and development is key to Georgia’s long-term development, UNICEF says

The National Agenda for Early Child Survival and Development outlines specific strategies that Georgia can pursue by 2015

TBILISI, 11 June 2013 - The participants of the high-level conference “Investing in Georgia’s Future - A National Agenda for Early Child Survival and Development” organized by UNICEF, the Parliament and the Government of Georgia have committed to prioritize Early Child Survival and Development within Georgia’s Development Strategy.

The Prime-Minister of Georgia, Speaker of the Parliament, Ambassadors, and Ministers, representatives of the executive and legislative authorities, international organizations and civil society gather to discuss the challenges children in their early years face in Georgia.

The Prime Minister of Georgia, Mr Bidzina Ivanishvili, making the opening remarks at the UNICEF-organized conference on Early Child Survival and Development in Tbilisi. - UNICEF/Geo-2013/Blagonravova 

According to studies conducted by UNICEF, 77,000 children are living in extreme poverty below USD 1.25 per day. Families with children tend to be poorer and children are not well represented in existing social protection mechanisms. 1000 children below five die every year. Major causes are malnutrition and quality of perinatal care. Half of the children do not have access to pre-school which significantly affects children’s school readiness and educational achievements. Despite the significant progress made in reducing the number of children in orphanages, 400 children under the age of six still spend time in large-scale institution every year, which severely impacts their development.

“The new Government has taken important steps to improve the social situation in the country, including providing free health insurance, doubling social benefits and increasing pensions,” says UNICEF Representative in Georgia Mr Sascha Graumann. “But despite the progress achieved, the level of inequity remains among the highest in Europe. Georgia spends a much smaller share of its state budget on education and health than other countries in the region and spends very little for children under five years compared to other age groups. Georgia has to re-examine how it invests in its future,” Graumann added. Introduction of inclusive and integrated policies and programs for Early Child Survival and Development for all young children of 0-6 is a proposed way forward to address the above challenges. This requires close coordination and collaboration among multiple ministries and agencies.

Thomas Hammarberg, EU Special Adviser on Human Rights to Georgia - UNICEF/Geo-2013/Blagonravova

The National Agenda for Early Child Survival and Development adopted at the conference outlines the following low cost, high impact strategies that Georgia can pursue by 2015. In particular:
  • Ensuring universal access to quality pre-school education, i.e. increasing current 46% net enrollment (30% among poor children) to 100% by improving infrastructure, covering operating cost and enforcing minimum quality standards. 
  • Achieving the UN Millennium Development Goal 4, i.e. reducing under 5 mortality from 20.5 to 16 per 1000 live births, by reducing malnutrition and improving perinatal care.
  • In pursuit of halving extreme poverty among 0 - 6 year olds, establishing an inter-sectoral task force to agree on the type and implementation mechanisms for universal child benefits under the age of 6. 
  • Ending the use of institutional care for all children younger than 6 years by expanding early intervention services and establishing home care services for disabled children. 
“Investing in Early Child Survival and Development is one of the most cost-effective strategies to increase a nation’s human capital, to reduce poverty, and overcome inequities. The way we treat our young children not only shapes their own lives, but the future of our society.” says Sascha Graumann. 

Early Childhood Development is a combination of health care services, nutrition interventions, parenting education programmes, pre-school services, poverty alleviation, and child care support targeted directly at children 0-5 years of age and their families. The international evidence is clear: investments in early childhood development impacts not only on the health, well-being and protection of young children, it also lays the foundation for economic growth over the medium and long term.

For more information, please, contact:

Maya Kurtsikidze
Communication Officer, UNICEF Georgia
Tel: (995 32) 2 23 23 88, 2 25 11 30
Cell: (995 599) 53 30 71



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