Islamabad, Pakistan - 31 October 2019: This week marked the conclusion of the two-day National Dialogue on Early Childhood Development (ECD) convened by the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Secretariat of the Ministry of Planning, Development and Reform, and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), to emphasize the importance of investing in children’s early years, the foundation for lifelong development.
The international consultation brought together 80 senior officials from different Federal and Provincial Ministries as well as world experts in ECD. They reflected on the current situation of young children and families and discussed the implications for the development of a multisectoral ECD Policy Framework. This will guide the provinces in their work on ECD -- one of the key global strategies and priorities to achieve social and economic equity.
“This Consultation is a priority for the Government because it is about the future of the new generations in Pakistan,” said Dr. Zafar Mirza, State Minister of National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination.
“In his inaugural speech, Prime Minister Imran Khan mentioned the detrimental impact of malnutrition and stunting on children’s development. When children are deprived of nutrition, they become stunted physically and emotionally. This has not only a moral cost, but also an economic cost. The Government fully understands the issue and is committed to rise to the challenges. Human development is our biggest priority,” he added.
Pakistan’s 12th Five-Year Development Plan and Annual Plan both promote sustainable and inclusive economic growth through social and economic development, using enhanced social protection schemes to shield the most disadvantaged communities, including children.
“We now need to develop a unified vision and policy framework for ECD that will guide the provinces in scaling up evidence-based, integrated services for children age 0-8 years and promote optimal brain development,” said Dr. Jehanzeb Khan, Deputy Chairman, Planning Commission.
“It is capital that we establish mechanisms at both the federal and provincial levels to ensure coordination across key sectors delivering on ECD and define indicators against which future progress can be measured,” he added.
“The Ministry of Planning, Development and Reform is hosting a high level ECD Task Force with representation from all relevant Ministries and Departments, including the Provincial and Area Secretaries of Planning and Development Departments. The task force will work with partners to finalize the ECD Policy Framework in 2019, which will support the development of doable plan of actions at the provincial and area levels to promote ECD,” said Mr. Aslam Shaheen, Chief Nutrition and Scaling Up Nutrition Focal Person at the Ministry of Planning, Development & Reform.
“There is compelling evidence that experiences in the early years of life play a major role in a child’s developmental pathway. It is an investment that guarantees healthier, better educated children, an educated workforce and a more peaceful prosperous society,” said Ms. Aida Girma, UNICEF Representative in Pakistan.
The Consultation took place as the world prepares to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child on 20 November.
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 for children, visit www.unicef.org