Why invest in children?

Investment in children is investment in ‘human capital’

A girl smiling
UNICEF Nepal/2015

“Around 40 per cent of Nepal’s population are children under the age of 18”

The Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), which Nepal ratified in 1990, guarantees that the basic needs of children and adolescents will be met as a fundamental economic and social right, and establishes that States Parties must implement such rights “to the maximum extent of their available resources” (article 4).

Investment in children is investment in ‘human capital.’ The right nutrition and care for children, especially during the first 1000 days of life – from conception to two years of age, can have a profound impact on a child’s ability to grow, learn and rise out of poverty. It can help break the cycle of poverty of families, communities and countries. It can shape a society’s long-term health, stability and prosperity.

Evidence shows that brain development is the most rapid in the initial years of life. Every additional dollar invested in quality early childhood development programmes yields a return of between $6 and $17.

Mothers with their children
UNICEF Nepal/2015/NShrestha

Nepal has been experiencing very rapid demographic changes over the last few decades as a result of declining birth and death rates as well as an improvement in life expectancy within a relatively short span of time. The nation is projected to transition into an ‘aging society’ by 2028 and an ‘aged society’ by 2054 – another 11 years and 37 years, respectively. Nepal has a finite “demographic window of opportunity” period when the country’s overall demographic composition is still young and productive. So to ensure that Nepal reaps its demographic dividends, increased investment for children is needed today to help them become far more productive by the time they become adults themselves and need to support the elderly people of the society while continuously developing the society.

An extra year of girls’ education cuts infant mortality by 5 to 10 per cent.

Girls in ECD classes
UNICEF Nepal/2012/CSKarki

Educating girls for six years or more drastically and consistently improves their prenatal care, postnatal care and childbirth survival rates.  Educating mothers also greatly cuts the death rate of children under five. Educated girls have higher self-esteem, are more likely to avoid HIV infection, violence and exploitation, and to spread good health and sanitation practices to their families and throughout their communities. And an educated mother is more likely to send her children to school.