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UNICEF congratulates Nigeria on the launch of a national Integrated Early Childhood Development policy

Policy seeks a holistic development of the Nigerian child

Abuja, 08 October 2007 - UNICEF congratulates the Federal Government of Nigeria for launching today a national policy for the Integrated Early Childhood Development (IECD). The policy aims to ensure a good start in life for all young Nigerian children under five years of age through the provision of adequate health care, nutrition, access to safe water and sanitation, early learning, psycho-social stimulation and protection. This will create the conditions for every Nigerian child to thrive and develop to their fullest potential and will ensure smooth transition for the child from home to primary school.

The IECD views the survival, growth and development of young children as mutually interdependent and therefore adopts an integrated and inter-sectoral approach. This inter-sectoral work between various departments and Ministries for Early Child Care is a novel idea in Nigeria. With UNICEF’s support, the national policy was jointly developed by the line Ministries which include Education, Health, Information and Communication, Agriculture and Water Resources, Women Affairs, Finance, Environment, Housing and Urban Development, National Planning Commission as well as development partners.

Children from birth to 5 years in Nigeria are most vulnerable to killer diseases such as malaria, acute respiratory infections (ARI), diarrhea, measles, HIV/AIDS, all of which cause high childhood morbidity and mortality. Because of this and the lack of access to safe drinking water, one in five children dies before reaching his/her fifth birthday. The survival challenges are further compounded by high prevalence of malnutrition, including micronutrient deficiencies which contribute to about 54% of under-five mortality. Besides, only about 20% of children age 3-5 years are participating in organized Early Childhood Care and Education programmes while early learning for children age 0-3 years have become highly impaired because of increasing poverty and more women being engaged in income earning activities.

‘Although different sectoral policies in Health, Nutrition, Education and the Child Rights Act etc. have addressed different aspects of the Early Child Development, a missing gap was the lack of synergy among the sectors to foster a holistic integration that will assure a robust and mutual realization of all the rights of children simultaneously”, said Robert Limlim, UNICEF Deputy Country Representative.

Research evidence shows that the care and support received by a child in terms of good health, nutrition and psycho-social care and protection are crucial in the formation and development of intelligence, personality and social behavior.

The IECD approach is anchored on families and caregivers who provide the primary care to young children ages 0-3 years, which is considered very crucial to a child’s subsequent physical, mental and social development. Other strategies for the realization of the IECD policy include establishment of community based centres for children 0-3 years and community/school linked centre for 3-5 year olds. The policy makes provision to institutionalize appropriate training for professional caregivers to manage Early Childhood care centers and create a network of stakeholders who will regulate and ensure quality in different aspects of Early Childhood care.

The policy in five years targets, among others, the achievement of full immunization for all children 0-5 years, reduction in infant and maternal mortality rates, adequate ante-natal care for all pregnant women, smooth transition of the child from home to school and increased enrolment in primary school, retention and completion of full primary education cycle.

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