Give children a chance to have a good start in life, invest in them

Dubai Cares and Unicef urge the public to invest in children below five for less than Dh2

Staff Report
15:05 March 16, 2017

Dubai: Did you know that you can help an underprivileged child aged five and below to have a good start in life through early childhood development for a full year for less than Dh2?

Unicef and Dubai Cares on Wednesday called on the UAE community to invest in early childhood development (ECD) as an estimated four in 10 children in low- and middle-income countries under five are at risk of poor development.

The call was made at a two-day event organised by Dubai Cares and Unicef, in coordination with the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation (MOFAIC).

Some 43 per cent of five-year-old children in low- and middle-income countries are at risk of poor development, according to the Lancet Advancing Early Childhood Development Series: From Science to Scale. The series is one of the world’s most renowned medical journals, which was launched in the Middle East and North Africa on Wednesday.

The earliest years of life, especially the first 1,000 days, provide a unique opportunity to shape a child’s brain development. Providing infants and young children with nurturing care during this critical window of opportunity fosters healthy cognitive, physical and emotional development.

But a lack of nurturing care during the same period — including prolonged exposure to adversity or violence — can inhibit optimal brain development in babies and young children, with lasting consequences for individual children, for their futures, and for their societies.

“Providing appropriate cognitive stimulation, nutrition, care and health services during this critical development period results in increased primary school enrolment, enhanced school performance, reducing repetition and dropout rates, reduction in juvenile crime rates, decreasing remedial education costs and improving economic and social productivity in adulthood,” Dubai Cares CEO Tariq Al Gurg said.

“These benefits produce significant social, education and economic returns to society far outweighing the returns on other forms of human capital investment.”

The Lancet Series also reported that ECD interventions promoting nurturing care are among the most cost-effective ways to help children reach their full potential, costing on average $0.50 (Dh1.8) per child per year when delivered together with existing health services.

Effective interventions can include home visits from health workers to teach parents about the importance of playing and reading to their young children, or supporting new mothers with information about the benefits of breastfeeding.

Unicef Executive Director Anthony Lake said: “Everyone has a role to play, because early childhood development affects everyone.”

Dubai Cares has launched ECD programmes in countries like Afghanistan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Comoros Islands, Laos, Malawi, Mexico, Palestine, Rwanda, Vanuatu, Tanzania and Zanzibar worth Dh87 million.