NEW YORK/BISHKEK, 21 September 2017 – Only 15 countries worldwide have three basic national policies that help guarantee the time and resources parents need to support their young children’s healthy brain development, UNICEF said today in a new report. Worse, 32 countries – home to one in eight of the world’s children under five – have none of these.
According to the report, Early Moments Matter for Every Child, two years of free pre-primary education, paid breastfeeding breaks during the first six months of a child’s life, and six months of paid maternity leave as well as four weeks of paid paternity leave help lay a critical foundation for optimal early childhood development. These policies help parents better protect their children and provide them with better nutrition, play and early learning experiences in the crucial first years of life when the brain grows at a rate never to be repeated.
"Kyrgyzstan is still on the path of implementation of early development policies. It is essential to develop the children’s brain from early years, when their brain quickly forms,” says Yukie Mokuo, UNICEF Representative in Kyrgyzstan.
"Investing in young children is an important strategy for the development of each country and poverty reduction."
The report also highlights that millions of children under five years old are spending their formative years in unsafe, unstimulating environments:
- Around 75 million children under-five live in areas affected by conflict, increasing their risk of toxic stress, which can inhibit brain cell connections in early childhood;
- Globally, poor nutrition, unhealthy environments and disease have left 155 million children under five stunted, which robs their bodies and brains from developing to their full potential;
- A quarter of all children between the ages of 2 and 4 years old in 64 countries do not take part in activities essential for brain development such as playing, reading and singing;
- Around 300 million children globally live in areas where the air is toxic, which emerging research shows can damage children’s developing brains.
On average, governments worldwide spend less than 2 percent of their education budgets on early childhood programmes. Yet, the report highlights that investment in children’s early years today yields significant economic gains in the future. Every US$1 invested in programmes that support breastfeeding generates US$35 in return; and every US$1 invested in early childhood care and education for the most disadvantaged children can yield a return of up to US$17.
The report calls for governments and the private sector to support basic national policies to support early childhood development, including by:
- Investing in and expanding early childhood development services in homes, schools, communities and health clinics – prioritizing the most vulnerable children;
- Making family-friendly policies, including two years of free pre-primary education, paid parental leave and paid breastfeeding breaks, a national priority;
- Giving working parents the time and resources needed to support their young children’s brain development;
- Collecting and disaggregating data on early childhood development and tracking progress in reaching the most vulnerable children and families.
UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere. For more information about UNICEF and its work in Kyrgyzstan visit: https://www.unicef.org/kyrgyzstan and follow us on Facebook, Instagram и Twitter