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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

Improving child quality

How individuals function in their life hinges, to a significant extent, on experiences during their first few years. This claim is substantiated by research evidence which shows that human brain development takes place most rapidly during infancy and early childhood. These years are critical in the formation and development of intelligence, personality, and social behavior. By age 6, for example, a child's brain has reached 90 percent of its adult size. During these initial years, therefore, all children have a particular need for love and care, sufficient nutrition, and stimulation and encouragement to develop all their brain faculties. Intervention at this time will yield the maximum benefits. The special supplemental nutrition program for women, infants, and children (WIC) in the US has helped reduce fetal death rate by 20-33 percent; increased the head size of infants, and result in better vocabulary test scores among 4-and 5-year-olds whose mothers had participated when pregnant.

Many Sub-Saharan African families are unable to provide children with adequate nutrition, a safe and healthy physical environment, and stimulation for the developing brain and mind. This results in a child's inability to take full advantage of schooling. Because of the importance of the early formative years, elementary schooling and even kindergarten may be too late to develop these capacities in children. Early childhood development programs are needed to support parents by providing their children the ingredients necessary for healthy development.