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Children receive much needed Early Childhood Development and Family (ECD&F) support in Kigeme Refugee camp

UNICEF Rwanda/2013/Park
© UNICEF Rwanda/2013/Park
Children playing with an ECD kit.

By Jung Yuen Park

Kigeme, Nyamagabe District, November 2013 - "I didn't realize toys could be so interesting and educational. I feel like a child today. I can’t wait to play with my children!" exclaims Clemens, a 57 -year-old mother leader who supports home-based ECD services in Kigeme refugee camp.

Managed by the Government of Rwanda, in partnership with the UN, Kigeme refugee camp is home to approximately 20,000 refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). With the generous contribution of the Government of Japan, UNICEF is providing early childhood development services for children between the ages of 0-6 years within the camp.

As part of efforts to strengthen ECD& F services within the camp, in November 2013, UNICEF teamed up with CARE International to provide a three day training on the use of the ECD kit to 50 mother leaders and 30 caregivers from the refugee camp. Designed by UNICEF, each ECD kit includes materials to develop cognitive, motor and socio-emotional skills of young children between the ages of 0-6 years.

ECD&F services within the camp currently provide care and protection to approximately 2,500 children from 0-6 years. ECD & F services are divided into two components—home-based and centre-based care.

Home based ECD is organized by the mother leaders, representatives that have been elected by the community, and focuses on children below the age of 4 years. Mother leaders serve as a role model, supporting parents to improve their nurturing practices, and serving as a bridge between parents and community health workers. Centre-based ECD services, on the other hand, focus on children between 4-6 years. At the centre, children are engaged in play and learning activities. They are also provided with a daily cup of porridge.

Jackie from CARE, a UNICEF partner, shared her joy on being able to help mothers from the camp: "Today mothers came in their best clothes to be ready for the training and they gave their full attention. They are excited to share with other parents what they learned today. We thank UNICEF for their continuous support here in Kigeme."

UNICEF Rwanda/2013/Park
© UNICEF Rwanda/2013/Park
Jeremy shares his group's work with other participants in the training.

“There are different learning methods for different ages, so we have to adapt the module depending on their age of children. It is a learning process and we will do our best to give everything for our children,” Jeremy, caregiver who participated in the training enthusiastically added.

"Children at their early stage need care and support to build a solid foundation for their development,” explains Hugh Delaney, UNICEF’s Chief of Education. We will continue to work ensure that children in Rwanda get the best start in life through a holistic approach that integrates development stimulation, nutrition, health and child protection," he adds.

Early childhood development is an emerging priority in Rwanda. With support from UNICEF, the National Early Childhood Development (ECD) Policy was developed and adopted by Cabinet in 2011. The National Policy provides a framework for an integrated approach to the development of young children. UNICEF is supporting the government’s work to increase access to ECD services through modelling physical infrastructure for the ECD centres and a package of services, which will be scaled up throughout the country as well as capacity building of caregivers and ECD professionals throughout Rwanda. 



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