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Evaluation database

Evaluation report

2015 Rwanda: Early Childhood Development and Family Services: Baseline Evaluation in 20 Sites in Rwanda

Author: UNICEF Rwanda

Executive summary


In 2014, UNICEF Rwanda commissioned an ECD&F baseline evaluation to assess the ECD&F programme’s impact, in partnership with Imbuto Foundation and guided by an ECD&F Baseline Technical Committee, comprising MIGEPROF, MINEDUC, the National Institute of Statistics in Rwanda (NISR), Imbuto Foundation, the University of Rwanda, Harvard University, Partners in Health Rwanda (Inshuti Mu Buzima) and UNICEF.1 The evaluation’s implementing partners were Harvard University School of Public Health, Partners in Health and the University of Rwanda.


The baseline evaluation’s key objectives included assessing the health and well-being of young children and families in the surveyed sites and establishing current conditions related to ECD&F to inform programmes in the selected areas. This summary report provides an overview of several domains that are critical to children’s health and development, including caregiver characteristics; children’s achievement of developmental milestones; children’s social-emotional well-being; opportunities for learning and stimulation; access to health and WASH services; nutrition; and child protection. The analysis focuses on key characteristics of household caregivers, such as wealth assets, and caregiver education and literacy.


In the baseline evaluation, a quasi-experimental matching design was used in the 20 sites, the 10 intervention sites that were exposed to and planned for inclusion into the ECD&F programme and the 10 matched comparison/control sites that were not exposed. Both quantitative and qualitative methods were used to understand the present context of child development and knowledge of and access to ECD across the sites. The study was implemented through a sample of two cohorts of children (0–11 months old and 24–35 months old) selected in the 10 project sites and 10 matched control sites from the same 10 districts of Rwanda. As noted, half of the sample was selected to serve as comparison sites within the same districts, to allow for a future evaluation of the impact of ECD&F interventions on children’s development. Between July and October 2014, a total of 884 households were visited, and 81 qualitative interviews were conducted to further contextualize the findings and understand dynamics related to knowledge, attitudes and experiences with services and practices seeking to promote child development in Rwanda.

Findings and Conclusions:

Rwanda’s remarkable progress made over the past years is strongly apparent: an overwhelming majority of households have access to improved water and improved sanitation, and access to mosquito nets in their homes. All these are key interventions for improving child health, and undoubtedly are key drivers of the large improvements in child survival achieved in the country over the past two decades. As an increasingly large percentage of infants survive, Rwanda’s policy focus gradually shifts towards improving other aspects of children’s early life experiences in order to ensure that children will be able to fully reach their developmental potential. The Government of Rwanda recognizes this need and highlights the importance of ECD through the national ECD policy and strategy. In addition, ECD and nutrition have been recognized as foundational requirements for achieving ambitious economic development goals for the country.


For children growing up in these impoverished communities, targeted ECD services have the potential to bring about more positive changes. As the results presented in this report show, children’s home environments are not always ideal: many primary caregivers lack basic education and struggle with stress/anxiety, food availability remains limited, and malnutrition continues to affect nearly half of 2-year-olds in the surveyed sites. Malnutrition is surely still compounded by inadequate hygiene practices and limited use of proper treatments to address dehydration caused by diarrhoea. While the country mobilizes to address the challenges of chronic malnutrition, immediate interventions to promote stimulation and cognitive development are essential to counteract the negative effects of undernutrition and high rates of poverty and daily stressors, particularly in the lives of poor families. Further support to caregivers can help to counteract the damage done by living in environments of compounded adversity and help children reach their full developmental potential.
The contexts of child rearing and caregiver well-being are closely related. In the households surveyed, parental interactions with children were sometimes limited and frequently involved harsh discipline, few early learning materials, and limited access to early learning centres. In addition, caregivers faced numerous challenges, including physically difficult work in settings far from home. There are, however, opportunities to integrate both preventative programmes to reduce violence and to enhance parenting interactions at the household level, as well as opportunities to re-examine options for work and childcare among Rwanda’s most vulnerable families.

Lessons Learned:

Given the array of ECD models being explored, it appears that both generalized models like ECD centres as well as more targeted models like family home visiting for especially vulnerable families are needed. Given such investments, the Government of Rwanda and UNICEF are poised to make timely and critical contributions to supporting families and promoting child development in children living in poverty, and have an excellent opportunity to evaluate the impact of innovative approaches to delivery of ECD services in Rwanda.

Full report in PDF

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Report information




Early Childhood Development


Harvard, Partners in Health, University of Rwanda


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