Early childhood development
Giving Ugandan children the #BestStartInLife
Early childhood development (ECD) is key to a full and productive life, and to the progress of a nation. When investments are made in mothers and young children, children’s risk of dying under the age of 5 is reduced, they stand a better chance of doing well at school and they are also more likely to break the intergenerational cycle of poverty.
However, in Uganda, only a tenth of children between 3 and 5 years are enrolled in formal pre-primary education. Preschools are predominately privately-run and located in urban areas. Community-based ECD centres receive very little state funding, are under-equipped, often lack the bare essentials such as clean water and toilets, and are managed by untrained volunteers.
Young children also miss out on essential social services in their communities. Uganda has one of the lowest immunization rates in East Africa, one in four births take place outside health facilities and 30 per cent of children under 5 do not have access to clean drinking water. As a result, child and maternal mortality rates remain high and malnutrition is widespread. In addition, hundreds of thousands of children are not registered at birth, preventing them from accessing services and depriving them of an official identity.
Investing in the early years is not only in the best interest of children, it is also key to developing human capital. Uganda’s future as a middle income country depends on providing the tools for upward mobility and building an educated and skilled workforce. ECD is the most efficient way to accomplish this goal.
With the launch of the Uganda Integrated Early Childhood Development Policy in 2016, children from conception to 8 years of age will benefit from a variety of strategies and services to provide basic health care, adequate nutrition, nurturing, care and stimulation within a safe and clean environment.
UNICEF is helping to increase access to, and coverage of, integrated community-based ECD services that meet national standards and benefit the most disadvantaged children. This means helping the government to develop ECD policies and strategies, coordinate interventions, promote community-based services, train service providers and improve parenting skills.
UNICEF is supporting the scale-up of highly effective child nutrition interventions such as exclusive breastfeeding, supplementation, de-worming and treatment of severe acute malnutrition, with a focus on the first 1,000 days of a child’s life.
UNICEF is working to improve the coverage, quality and sustainability of high impact maternal, neonatal and child health interventions, focusing on integrated approaches over the span of a child and mother’s life, from pre-pregnancy through early childhood.
UNICEF is helping to develop and implement a comprehensive civil registration and vital statistics system, which will lead to universal, continuous and free birth registration of all Ugandan children.
UNICEF is assisting the government to improve access to sanitation and safe drinking water in under-served rural communities, schools and primary health care clinics. Without clean water, proper latrines and hand washing with soap, young children are more likely to get diarrhoea and become malnourished.
The development of children in the first five years is fundamental for brain development, otherwise they’ll never reach their full potential. If we are ever going to achieve our Vision 2040, we must invest adequately in our children, and right at the start. Playing catch up later is pointless
#InvestInUGchildren: Realize Uganda’s Vision 2040