Unicef launches programme for early brain development

Rafat Salami

UNICEF has launched #EarlyMomentsMatter, a new campaign to drive increased awareness about the impact of early experiences on the developing brain.

The campaign supported by the LEGO Foundation speaks of the importance of the first 1,000 days of a child’s life and the impact of early experiences on the developing brain.

According to UNICEF, the campaign kicks off with #EatPlayLove – a digital and print initiative aimed at parents and caregivers that shares the neuroscience on how babies’ brains develop.

Unicef said the #EatPlayLove explains “the science in a straightforward, visually interesting way to encourage parents and caregivers to continue to make the most of the opportunity to provide their children with the best possible start in life.”

Explaining the importance of the early years, unicef said “during this critical window of opportunity, brain cells can make up to 1,000 new connections every second – a once-in-a-lifetime speed,” adding that a lack of proper care “– which includes adequate nutrition, stimulation, love and protection from stress and violence – can impede the development of these critical connections.”

“Investment in early childhood is one of the most cost effective ways of increasing the ability of all children to reach their full potential – increasing their ability to learn in school and, later, their earning capacity as adults. This is especially significant for children growing up in poverty,” Unicef said.

By engaging with families, the initiative also aims to drive demand for quality, affordable early childhood development services and to urge governments to invest in programmes targeting the most vulnerable children.
Unicef cited a recent series in The Lancet which states that “nearly 250 million children in developing countries are at risk of poor development due to stunting and poverty”, adding however that children in middle and high income countries also require investment and action.
UNICEF estimates that millions more children are spending their formative years growing up in unstimulating and unsafe environments, putting their cognitive, social and emotional development at risk.
UNICEF is calling for governments to increase investments in early childhood, expand health and social services offered to young children, and strengthen support services for parents and caregivers.