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Overview: Early childhood development

Overview

Our Area of Global Distinctiveness (AoGD) overview describes the results that we want to achieve for children and particularly for girls, the most important strategies we want to focus on as an organisation and the most important areas of work where we want to invest to build coherent, gender-transformative programming.

Early childhood – the period below the age of 8 – is the most important developmental phase in a person’s life.

In these early years – especially the first 1,000 days when a child’s brain development is at its most rapid – foundations are laid that are critical for future wellbeing and resilience, mental and physical health, intellectual progress and social interaction.

Despite all the scientific evidence for this, millions of young children worldwide are denied rights that are essential for their survival, healthy growth and development. Children from sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, those affected by poverty, conflict and disaster, or living with disability are all less likely to survive and thrive in early childhood.

Every year 43% of all under-5s in low-and middle-income countries – around 250 million children – may not reach their developmental potential due to poor health, malnutrition, exposure to violence and lack of nurturing care, among other factors. 

Why does all this matter?

  • Because it affects future generations and wider societies. Children who fail to achieve their potential in early childhood are less likely to enter and complete school on time, learn essential life skills and enjoy lifelong good health. It’s more likely their own children will be born into disadvantage, perpetuating a cycle of inequality.
  • Because governments, donors and societies are still failing to prioritise Early Childhood Development (ECD), despite the fact that ECD is the foundation for achieving many Sustainable Development Goals.

Our goal is to ensure vulnerable and excluded young girls and boys in development and humanitarian settings get the care, supports and services needed to survive, grow up healthy and develop to their full potential – free from limiting gender norms and attitudes.