The children

Childhood in the Dominican Republic

The Early Years

Boys and Girls of School-Going Age



The Early Years

© UNICEF/DR/2004/Quiroga

Early Childhood in the Dominican Republic
The first years of life are decisive for the development of boys and girls. During this stage the capacity to think, speak, learn and reason are acquired and basic social values and behaviour are formed which will accompany them during their adult lives.

Name and nationality
Considered as a basic right, name and nationality are the door to other rights. Not having a birth registration limits access to education for thousands of children. Despite the existence of a law that foresees that the State, the parents, mothers and health centres must comply with the corresponding procedures to allow for free and easy registration of all minor children, according to the Demographic and Health Survey (ENDESA by its initials in Spanish), over 22% of children between the ages of 0 and 4, do not have a birth certificate.

The situation concerning birth registration, that is, the right of all children to be registered at the Registrar’s Office so that his/her identity is recognized, is of great concern since lack of a birth certificate prevents access to other rights such as the right to education.

According to ECLAC (1) 1 million 164 thousand boys and girls between de ages of 0 to 5 in the Dominican Republic live in conditions of poverty. This situation prevents access to health and education services and to birth registration, whether due to the inexistence, limited access or poor quality of services and/or because the parents are not aware of its importance.

According to ECLAC data, 55.4% of the population between the ages of 0 to 5 is poor, with children in rural areas being the ones most vulnerable to poverty. This situation prevents access to health and education services and to birth registration, whether due to the inexistence, limited access or poor quality of services and/or because the parents are not aware of its importance.

Health and Nutrition
Child survival begins prior to the first year of life. Proper nutrition of the mother, her immunization to prevent neonatal tetanus, actions taken to prevent vertical HIV/AIDS transmission as well as quality care during child delivery, are among the essential factors needed to ensure a safe delivery and good start t

According to data from the ENDESA survey, the high rate of maternal mortality is of serious concern (178 for each 100,000 born alive). Also of concern is the neonatal mortality rate (22 for each 1,000 born alive) which has remained unchanged during the past 10 years. The infant mortality rate (less than 1 year) and child mortality rate (less than 5 years) have dropped to 29 and 35 for each 1,000 born alive, respectively.

According to the same source, acute respiratory and diarrhoea illnesses constitute one of the most important health problems among children below 5 years of age. Despite the fact that 92.7% of mothers are aware of the existence of oral rehydration salts (ORS), only 28% uses them for diarrhoea treatment. The cases of acute respiratory infections (ARI) such as whooping cough, measles, diphtheria, that seek help from a health provider increased from 47.8 to 60.8% for the period 1996-2002. It should be noted that although an increase in the treatment of ARIs has been registered, in 40% of cases timely treatment is not sought. 

Every child needs to have received a series of vaccinations before reaching the age of one. According to the Extended Programme of Immunizations (PAI by its initials in Spanish), there has been a significant increase in immunization coverage among children under one year of age against the main illnesses that are preventable through vaccination, such as measles, polio, diphtheria, whooping cough, tuberculosis, and tetanus. Notwithstanding, the country still has great challenges to meet the universal coverage goal of 95% of the population of that age for all vaccines. (Source: Demographic and Health Survey (ENDESA)/Santo Domingo, DO: Centro de Estudios Sociales y Demográficos, 2002).

One important health issue is the condition of low weight at birth, affecting 11% of all newborns as of 2003. (State of World’s  Children, UNICEF, 2006).

(1) Estimates based on special tabulations of home surveys by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC).

© UNICEF/DR/2004/Martinez

Early Childhood Development and Education

In the Dominican Republic’s education system the level of “Initial Education” refers to the schooling that children younger than 6 years should receive. For the Ministry of Education (SSE) the only mandatory period is the last year of initial education, that is, the one started at five years of age, just before the student enters the Primary or Basic Education level. During the school year 2004-2005, public institutions accounted for 57% of the total number of children enrolled at the initial level in the country.

However, according to SSE statistics, enrolment of students at the initial level has shown an irregular trend. When analyzing the population from three to five years of age it was seen that the gross schooling rate fell from 39.5% in the school year 2000-2001 to 33.4% in the school year 2002-2003.

In addition, it is estimated that for this population, the percentage of children that receives preschool education is only 16% for those from the poorest sectors and 75% for children from higher income sectors.

In the Dominican Republic, there are several government institutions responsible for the integral development of children under five years of age. Among these are the Directorate for Care of Early Childhood (DAPI by its initials in Spanish), National Council for Children (CONANI by its initials in Spanish), National Council for Day care Centres (CONDEI by its initials in Spanish), the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Education. Nevertheless, despite the existence of laws and regulations, their roles and responsibilities are not clearly defined in their mandates and rules of procedures.

In addition, there are no specific policies concerning the integral development of children under  5 years of age. Programmes and services for this population focus on institutional care without taking into account community participation. They are also uncoordinated and lack an integral perspective.
(Source: SSE: Consolidated Statistics Bulletins 2004-2005, 2005, taken from, consulted on 09/2005)





Basic Data

For each 1,000 born alive…
Child Mortality Rate: 29 < 1 year
Mortality Rate: < 5 years: 35

Immunization coverage in 1-year old   population:
Tuberculosis – 90%
DPT3 – 65%
Polio 3 – 60%
Measles – 79%
Hepatitis B – 81%

Children under 5 with:
Acute respiratory infections – 20%
Diarrhoea who received oral dehydration – 53%

Newborns with low birth weight  – 11%
Exclusive breastfeeding during the first 6 months – 10%

Source: State of World’s Children, UNICEF, 2006 (data for 2003)


Malnutrition is measured through the relationship of weight and/or size with age of the child.

While chronic malnutrition is an irreversible condition, acute malnutrition points to a present condition that can be reversed with adequate nourishment.



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