Early Childhood Development (ECD)
Early Moments Matter
Early years in life have a profound impact on a child’s future. When loved, nourished and cared for in safe and stimulating environments, children develop the knowledge and skills they need to embrace opportunity and bounce back from adversity.
Over the past decade, Lao PDR has witnessed significant improvements in both health and social outcomes for children, and the country is making steady progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals. Nevertheless, challenges still exist for Lao children.
27% of under 5-year-olds are underweight, and 36% are stunted; child mortality remains high at 88 deaths per 1,000 live births, and immunization coverage remains low; over three quarters of children aged 2 to 14 years are subject to at least one form of psychological or physical aggression from an adult in their household; and almost 40% of the population has no sanitation facilities. Approximately 70% of 5-year-old children do not have Early Childhood Education (ECE) opportunities.
Furthermore, aggregate data hide substantial geographical, gender, social and ethnic disparities. Children from rural areas, girls, and children from non-Lao-Thai ethnic communities continue to fare more poorly than other children, across health, nutrition, education and protection indicators. Limited access to information and services, social and cultural norms, and economic constraints are some of the key contributing factors.
UNICEF believes that Early Childhood Development (ECD) is the foundation of life-long learning and success. UNICEF supports ECD in a comprehensive way that combines education, health care, nutrition, hygiene promotion, protection and cognitive stimulation, from the period of pregnancy to 8 years of age to help children achieve their full potential.
UNICEF’s ECD-related programme interventions converge in seven priority provinces, where children, their families and communities enjoy improved access to basic services. These efforts apply both to supply interventions and to demand the creation and the development of capacities for the provincial and district authorities as well as for families and communities.
Furthermore, in recognition of the positive impact that ECD can have in a child’s life, and acknowledging the essential contribution that parents and caregivers make to their children’s ECD, UNICEF Lao PDR is embarking on the development of a comprehensive and sustainable parenting programme. It aims at equipping parents and caregivers with the knowledge and skills needed to ensure optimal early childhood development for their children and minimize the effects of actual and potential external risk factors. In partnership with Lao Women’s Union and engagement of line ministries, a holistic parenting education programme on ECD will be created by the end of 2018.