Top Investment in the future of the nation: early childhood development

28 September 2017
Afshan Khan speaking at the conference
UNICEF Serbia/2017/Vas

Belgrade, 28 September 2017 – Programmes that support early childhood development are an opportunity to provide adequate nutrition, stimulation and care needed for a child’s brain development and for the realisation of his or her potential.

Investing in the development of children in the earliest age, and support for their families, is a chance to improve outcomes for children, especially those who are most disadvantaged.

Such investment generates multiple benefits - for children now, and for society in the future, it was concluded at the “Top Investment in the Future of the Nation: Early Childhood Development” conference, which was held today in Belgrade, Serbia.

“Supporting the youngest children requires a comprehensive approach to policies and programmes for children and their parents, caregivers and the society in which they live. The child must be healthy and protected, grow up in a family, have a solid foundation for education, and later for employment, and avoid the risk of poverty.

It is, therefore, important that the entire system is geared towards supporting the child and parenting, just as it is equally important for everyone to remember that early childhood development is crucial for the cognitive, emotional, psychological and physical potentials of the child,” stressed Prof Dr Slavica Djukic Dejanovic, Minister without portfolio responsible for demography and population policy.

Multi-sectoral interventions are important to reach children early with services that support families to deliver nurturing care and promote, protect, and support early childhood development.

"The Government of the Republic of Serbia recognises the importance of caring for children and developing support services for them and their families. These services are realised through a variety of measures and policies, primarily in the health, education and social protection sectors, while particular emphasis is placed on supporting the development of the youngest children.

In addition to protecting the child, both directly and through family support services, one of the basic responsibilities of the system is to ensure the minimum financial security of the family. This kind of security is one of the necessary conditions for improving the support provided to children - support for their well-being and overall development.

Still, the most important role of the social protection system is the protection of the rights of the child and the best interests of the child.

The development of support services for children and families, especially families with numerous and complex needs and problems, is one of the priorities of social protection.

In order to ensure an adequate and comprehensive response to the creation of conditions for supporting children at an early age, it is necessary to involve different sectors, institutions and organisations, and to coordinate and act jointly.

The Ministry of Labour, Employment, Veteran and Social Affairs will focus on developing these services in the future, as children are our biggest priority,” said Zoran Djordjevic, Minister of Labour, Employment, Veteran and Social Affairs.

The period from conception to the start of school can influence the future of the child, but also the economic growth and development of every society.

UNICEF Regional Director for Europe and Central Asia Afshan Khan said that early childhood is an opportunity to build the brains of the children who will build the future.

“The early moments of a child's life represent a critical window of opportunity which we must seize to make sure every child can reach their full potential in life. UNICEF is pleased to work alongside the Government of the Republic of Serbia across all sectors – health, nutrition, education, and social protection – to make sure the most vulnerable children are reached with vital early childhood interventions.“

The conclusions reached at the conference will contribute to the formulation of a Call for Action to Support the Development of Children in Early Childhood, which will be signed by the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development and the Ministry of Labour, Employment, Veteran and Social Affairs, in order to direct their coordinated efforts for the benefit of every child and family in Serbia.

UNICEF will continue to support the Government of the Republic of Serbia to advance the development of the youngest children, especially those children that are most vulnerable.

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