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FORUM: Coming together for early childhood development

March 12, 2024 15:56
FORUM: Coming together for early childhood development
Ifakara Research Scientists Farida Katunzi presented her work during the event. Credit: IFAKARA Communications.

From March 11 to 14, 2024, the Ifakara Health Institute is actively participating in the 4-day Eastern Africa Regional Early Childhood Conference held at the Julius Nyerere International Convention Centre in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

This conference served as a vital platform for partners to assess the current status of early childhood in the region, exchange knowledge, and explore strategies to scale innovative models of quality early childhood interventions.

Under the theme "Investing in Early Childhood: Building Human Capital Along the Life Course," the event was a collaborative effort between the African Early Childhood Network, UNICEF, the World Health Organization, and the Ministry of Community Development, Gender, and Children of the United Republic of Tanzania.

Dr. Ester Elisaria and Farida Katunzi, research scientists at Ifakara, actively engaged in the conference alongside various stakeholders committed to enhancing early childhood outcomes, including policymakers, grassroots advocacy organizations, women and youth groups, academia, and development partner organizations.

During the conference, Farida Katunzi presented her work titled “Integration of ECD/Nurturing Care Components into Sector Policies and Services Guidelines.” She stressed the need for inclusive ECD policy making and implementation, with a specific focus on responsive caregiving, early learning, and safety/security for children aged 0–3 and marginalized groups. Ms. Katunzi also highlighted gaps in current policies, particularly in areas such as health, nutrition, protection, and early learning.

Dr. Elisaria, also a member of the organizing committee, participated in a panel discussion addressing the topic "Ensuring nurturing care for all: How collecting systems-level indicators contributes to change in East Africa."

Dr. Elisaria specifically presented her study titled "Strengthening Early Childhood Development/Nurturing Care Systems Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) in Tanzania: Assessment of the barriers and opportunities for ECD System Performance Strengthening."

The session, chaired by Laura Meyer, a researcher at Mathematica, featured other panelists, including Francisco Mbofana from Mozambique and Teresa Mwoma from Kenya.

What is ECD

In understanding Early Childhood Development (ECD), UNICEF emphasizes that "early childhood offers a critical window of opportunity to shape the trajectory of a child’s holistic development and build a foundation for their future." UNICEF stresses the importance of health care, nutrition, protection from harm, a sense of security, opportunities for early learning, and responsive caregiving for children to achieve their full potential, as it is their human right. These elements are essential to nourish developing brains and fuel growing bodies. For further information, you can learn more here.