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close this bookThe Condition of Young Children in Sub-Saharan Africa: The Convergence of Health, Nutrition, and Early Education (WB, 1996, 64 p.)
close this folder2. The status of children In sub-Saharan Africa
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentProgress in human development
View the documentPhysical needs: Survival, health, and nutrition
View the documentEducational profile
View the documentEarly interventions, school readiness and subsequent performance
View the documentThe challenge ahead
View the document3. What can early childhood development programs do?
View the documentImproving child quality
View the documentIncreasing the efficiency of primary and secondary school investments
View the documentEnhancing the economic contribution of the child to society
View the documentReducing social inequity
View the documentAddressing the intersecting needs of women and children
View the documentCreating synergistic effects of health, nutrition, and early stimulation

3. What can early childhood development programs do?

A growing body of global evidence has emerged that supports the case for early childhood care and development programs. In general, research focusing on the effects of ECD programs on children's development concludes that these programs promote the well-being of the whole child. In particular, they foster language, cognitive, and social development through frequent and varied verbal interaction, and provision of educational curricula that permit children to initiate and pace their own learning activities and opportunities to interact with adults and peers (e.g. Darlington and others 1980; Hayes and others 1991).

While evidence from Africa is still lacking, research done in other parts of the world, especially in the US and Latin America, has demonstrated that the effects of ECD programs are especially beneficial for children from poor families not capable of providing a healthy, safe and stimulating environment for children. Intensive exposure to a well-planned child care intervention project, particularly one that serves both child and family, and provides integrated services in health, nutrition and education can improve the lives of these children and have important positive implications for intellectual development and later school and social adaptation. In the US, research on the effects of the national Head Start program which serves poor children found evidence of its positive effects on IQ, on developed abilities at point of entry into school, and on achievement at the end of early grades (Hubbell and others 1985). As described in the previous sections, most of the Sub-Saharan children fit into this category of at risk population.

The following section summarizes the potential benefits and rationale for investment in programs of early childhood care and development in the Sub-Saharan Africa region.