When my daughter started to make eye contact, move her tiny hands, smile, and make baby sounds, it taught me a lot about life and human development.
Humans develop slowly yet fast, and one of our most important formative periods is between 0 and 5 years.
I have started reading a lot about the developmental stages of babies (maybe it’s because I have one always standing on my face in the morning, waking me up as early as 6 am, sometimes at 5 am).
It’s almost like a miracle when they begin to recognise their parents’ faces and start showing feelings of trust, fear, and belonging and seeing them gradually beginning to express character, emotion and form.
A recent progress report by the World Health Organisation and UNICEF highlighted the need to increase investment in nurturing care, especially in poor and developing countries.
The first year of life presents us with irreplaceable opportunities to invest in every child’s life, and these investments go a long way to contribute to lifelong health, nutrition and well-being.
It’s amazing how the first three or five years of a child’s life contribute to that child’s entire life–from their total health, social life and behaviour and even their financial lives and overall productivity.
There’s plenty of research that has traced strange or abnormal behaviours in adults right to their developmental years, where they lacked care, warmth and the required attention needed at that fragile period of their lives.
The brain develops the fastest during the periods of pregnancy to the age of three, with over 80% of neural development taking place within this stage.
It is at this stage children develop some of the most vital traits that their entire lives are built upon.
Unfortunately, there’s a societal gap regarding the importance of solid care during the first vital years of life.
The children we see today are the foundation of tomorrow. They are the building blocks of society. Children hold within their hearts the future of our specie, and this is why we must not hold back in advocating for policies, strategies and initiatives that will contribute to raising awareness about the importance of nurturing care and investing strategically in them.
The Nurturing Care Framework
The Nurturing Care Framework was launched five years ago to serve as a guidance document for supporting the healthy physical, intellectual, and emotional development of young children.
It was launched in 2018 by WHO, UNICEF and the World Bank Group, in collaboration with the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (PMNCH) and the Early Childhood Development Action Network.
The Framework is comprised of five strategic actions:
- Lead and invest
- Focus on families and their communities
- Strengthen services
- Monitor progress
- Scale up and innovate
According to the report, there has been increased political commitment to investing in early child care and development since the Framework was launched five years ago–with about 50% of countries developing plans, policies and services relating to early child care and development.
The report also identified that the Framework had provided a shared language that has made it possible for relevant sectors and stakeholders to align their commitments and coordinate actions to achieve good health, adequate nutrition, responsive caregiving, opportunities for early learning, and safety and security for every child.
The report shared extensive insights into the work done in the past five years since the Framework was launched and how it has contributed immensely to the overall health and well-being of societies that have adopted its strategy.
“We now need to continue investing, measuring, adapting, scaling up and sustaining policies and interventions that are context-specific and give families and communities the resources they need to allow their children to grow in stimulating safe and secure environments,” said Dr Anshu Banerjee.
The foundation has been laid down from 2018 to 2023, a lot of work has been done, and now the work must continue as more countries have understood the importance of the Framework and how it can benefit overall societies.
Governments and stakeholders, especially in low and middle-income countries, need to invest more in their primary healthcare sectors as there is a strong tie between primary healthcare and child care.
“The Nurturing care framework has proven to be an indispensable tool on the journey to create a better future for current and future generations, starting in early childhood. The achievements in implementing it to date should inspire us to sustain momentum and increase the investments needed to ensure that every child can realise the right to survive and thrive, and is equipped to contribute to a better, more equitable, and sustainable world.”Dr Anshu Banerjee.
Components of Nurturing Care
- Good Health: Child and caregiver well-being are interconnected. This means that the health and mental state of caregivers can impact their ability to provide proper care for children. Therefore, it’s important to focus on the well-being of both the child and the caregiver.
- Adequate Nutrition: This borders on the importance of nutrition for both mothers and children. The reason for this is that the mother’s nutritional well-being during pregnancy impacts not only her own health but also the health of her unborn child. Additionally, after birth, the mother’s nutrition plays a key role in her ability to breastfeed and provide sufficient care for her child.
- Safety and Security: Safe and secure environments for children and their families encompass physical safety, emotional well-being, protection from environmental risks like pollution, and access to food and water.
- Opportunities for Early Learning: “Early childhood experiences” is the term used to describe any chance an infant or child has to engage with people, places, or objects in their surroundings. It’s important to acknowledge that each interaction, whether positive, negative, or nonexistent, plays a role in a child’s brain development and sets the groundwork for future learning.
- Responsive Caregiving: Responsive caregiving refers to how well caregivers are able to detect, comprehend, and react to their child’s cues in a timely and appropriate manner. It is considered the cornerstone of effective caregiving, as it enables caregivers to support the other four components better.
The Nurturing Care Framework is an innovative public health development that contributes to the growth and development of society by ensuring children are well cared for, have an enabling environment, have access to adequate nutrition and learning opportunities and are protected.
Moving forward, it’s imperative that we all, whether as individuals, stakeholders, or organisations, become actively involved in ensuring that children anywhere in the world, starting from our immediate environment, are treated well and have access to appropriate and adequate care.
We may not have the resources to establish global Frameworks like the Nurturing Care Framework, but we can contribute in our little way by being advocates and ambassadors of nurturing care ourselves, reporting cases of child abuse, health educating family members, people in society and colleagues on the importance of early child care and development.