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Leave no child behind: invest in the early years

Recently we published our report Leave no child behind: invest in the early years. This report makes a case for increasing investments made in inclusive early childhood development (ECD) services for the most vulnerable children. Particularly those whose challenges have become more pronounced as a result of the corona pandemic. 

Why are the early years so important?

For young children, falling behind often means remaining left behind. There is a limited period in which critical early development occurs. And this cannot simply be put on hold, nor can someone catch up at a later stage. During the first few years after birth, a young child’s rapidly developing brain is highly sensitive to environmental adversity. 

Key message

There is a simple message at the heart of this report: investing in equitable and inclusive ECD programmes is a sound investment in meeting the SDGs. The most significant gains in ECD programmes can be made by targeting the most disadvantaged children. Including children with disabilities and developmental delays. 

Relevance in current times

Even though the research in this report was completed before the pandemic broke out, its fundamental message is more appropriate than ever before. Urgent investment in inclusive ECD is the most effective way to reach children who are furthest behind! For children, their early years are crucial for their healthy mental and physical development and lifelong success. We need to create the opportunity for children to have the best chance in life. Early identification and intervention can significantly improve their longer-term educational and other vital outcomes. 

What works?

Simple interventions with multi-sectoral coordination in the early years (from birth to five years of age) linked to the Nurturing Care Framework can transform lives. These include:

  • Early identification of needs;
  • Better support for parents to become responsive caregivers;
  • More access to appropriate healthcare and nutrition;
  • Early learning;
  • Safety and security.

These interventions make economic sense. In Sub-Saharan Africa, every dollar spent on tripling pre-primary education generates approximately a 33% return on investment.

Call to action

We therefore call on all governments and donors to prioritise the protection and support of young children and their caregivers in the light of the COVID-19 pandemic. This requires more investments supportive of young children’s health and physical, cognitive, social and emotional development. We need to do so by putting equity and inclusion at the forefront of our efforts to leave no child behind.

You can find a copy of the complete report here

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