A journey of love: A parent’s role in ensuring the healthiest start in life for their child

Parents are the bridge to a safe and healthy life for their children through positive parenting practices

Hadeel Agab
01 July 2020

Every child must be empowered from an early age to make their own decisions in order to become powerful participants in their societies and build healthier and more prosperous futures. Early childhood is considered as the most critical period in a child’s life, as it is the period during which the child’s brain begins to grow and develop. 

In Sudan, 35,5 per cent of children under the age of five are at risk of not reaching their full potential, due to poverty, conflict, poor nutrition and a lack of access to basic services. 

These children are at risk of having lowered cognitive, language and psychosocial outcomes which can lead to poor academic achievement in primary school and, ultimately, dropping out of school.
Fathers and mothers play a crucial role in shaping a child’s future. In order to give the child the best start in life, the child needs love, adequate health, good nutrition, learning opportunities, care and protection, which are known as ‘nurturing care’ especially in the first years of life.

Woman holds baby in Sudan
A woman and her child await their turn at the Gennis Health Centre in Roseires locality of Blue Nile State.

Health care

A mother’s diet and her nutrient stores are the only source of nutrition for a developing baby. It is critical that women have access to health care and nutritious food which they need before and during pregnancy. They should also seek regular ante natal care checkups and get the right amount of physical and mental rest. 

Two mothers and baby in Sudan
During a household visit, community health workers take MUAC measurements from a child’s arm in Gennis village in Roseires locality of Blue Nile State.

Adequate nutrition

Mothers should initiate breastfeeding immediately after childbirth and continue exclusively for the first six months of life, if possible. It is crucial that mothers follow a diet that meets the nutrient needs for their child's optimal growth and development.

Baby lies on blanket in Sudan
Ali Abubakar smiles while recovering from severe acute malnutrition at the UNICEF and WHO supported Damazin Hospital Stabilization Centre in Ad-Damazin, the capital of the Blue Nile State.

Responsive caregiving and protection

In order to ensure healthy development for children, they need to build neural connections in the brain. These connections are created through good parenting practices such as hugging, comforting, playing, reading, singing and talking. Parents should prevent their children from maltreatment, abuse and neglect.

Child writes on chalkboard
Sana Ibrahim Abdel Rehman, nine-years-old, practices her school work on a wall in her house in Abu Shouk IDP Camp just outside the city of El Fasher, North Darfur.

Early learning

It is critical that every child has access to quality early childhood care, learning and development programmes and other early learning opportunities involving toys, books and interactive engagement with adults and peers.

Doctor speaks to family at hospital in Sudan
Dr. Nader Ahmed, UNICEF Health and Nutrition Officer, speaks to Noor Ahmed and other caretakers who are accompanying their children suffering from severe acute malnutrition at Damazin Hospital Stabilization Centre in Ad-Damazin.

UNICEF continue to work tirelessly to help every child get the best start in life. This will be achieved by supporting parents and helping them to engage in nurturing care and positive parenting with their young children. In addition, UNICEF is  supporting Health System and Health Care Providers to ensure access to quality Ante-natal Care (ANC) services, Post Natal Care for both mothers and their newborns, immunization, child health care and health education.