The brain develops most rapidly in the first five years of a child’s life. Yet, worldwide, 250 million children are not reaching their potential during these years. In 2015, an estimated six million children died before reaching age five, mostly due to diseases that are readily and affordably preventable and treatable. In developing countries, 159 million children do not have access to pre-school.
The Aga Khan Foundation (AKF) works to ensure that girls and boys have a good start in life by influencing the environments in which they are growing by improving access to quality services, enhanced family and community support, and strengthened human resources and institutions. Globally, AKF’s Early Childhood programmes benefit over 250,000 children ages 0-6, and over 8,000 teachers, health workers and facilitators. Programmes countries include Afghanistan, Egypt, India, Kenya, the Kyrgyz Republic, Mozambique, Pakistan, Portugal, Russia, Syria, Tajikistan, Tanzania and Uganda.
Access to Early Childhood Development (ECD) Services
AKF promotes the ability of every child from conception to six years to survive and thrive. AKF’s ECD portfolio is guided by the holistic approach of the Nurturing Care Framework across five inputs: health, nutrition, cognitive stimulation and education, safety and security and responsive caregiving. AKF seeks to ensure all five elements are integrated in programming. AKF supports young children through formal and non-formal early childhood centres and community play/learning spaces, health and nutrition, social protection platforms and economic inclusion platforms.
Strengthening the capacity of government policymakers and the ECD workforce
AKF contributes to children’s protective and safe environments by strengthening the capacity of government and the ECD workforce. AKF supports various government departments, such as the Ministry of Education, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Women and Children, to develop and finance ECD-friendly policies. AKF works with the government, universities and professional development institutions to strengthen the capacity of the ECD workforce. This includes community health workers, pre-school teachers, social workers, nurses and others.
Engaging with parents and caregivers
AKF equips parents and primary caregivers with the knowledge and skills to be their children’s first and most important teachers in life. AKF not only supports mothers, including adolescent mothers, but fathers as well. AKF supports parents and caregivers through one-on-one home visits conducted by health/social workers, pregnant women groups, women’s savings and loan groups, antenatal health care visits, post birth visits, peer-to-peer parenting group sessions and community-wide information campaigns using media.