Faster than we ever thought, the first years of a child’s life set the stage for all future growth. In the earliest years of life, especially from pregnancy to three years old, babies and children need nutrition, protection, and stimulation for healthy brain development. Yet too many children are still missing out on the ‘eat, play and love’ their brains need to develop. Put simply, we don't care about children’s brains the way we care for their bodies.
The first five years is a vital period in a child’s life cycle to ensure children get off to the best start in life. But many children in Malawi face challenges from the day they are born. These range from parents or guardians not having the opportunity or knowledge to develop positive parenting skills, to poor health care and nutrition, little early stimulation and learning, and the lack of a protective environment. The challenges increase when children are also affected by HIV/AIDS and humanitarian disasters.
There has been some progress on Malawi's commitment to early childhood development (ECD), including progress made on reducing stunting and child deaths and increasing enrolment of young children in early education programmes. However, challenges remain to ensure that all children in Malawi, including the most disadvantaged and vulnerable, benefit from improved parenting practices, better ECD interventions and services, and early learning opportunities.