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A child’s brain is 90% developed by the time they reach the age of five. Children who start school without early years support can have a limited vocabulary and ability to learn, impacting their opportunities in later life.
And even though the importance of providing nurturing care, including healthcare, nutrition, play, learning and protection, has been thoroughly proved, investment in the zero to five age group is still far too small.
That's why the children's charity Theirworld has launched the #5for5 campaign to put pressure on world leaders to take urgent action to make sure all children - especially the poorest and most marginalised - have access to the full range of nurturing care.
The Sustainable Development Goals - a set of global targets agreed at the United Nations to be achieved by 2030 - includes ensuring all children “have access to quality early childhood development, care and pre-primary education”.
Now world leaders need to commit to a dramatic increase in funding and take action to support early childhood development programmes.
The #5for5 campaign will highlight five key factors which are needed in the first five years of life to provide nurturing care - nutrition, health, learning, play and protection.
Theirworld President Sarah Brown said: “Whether or not children have access to the best start possible in life is determined by two important factors - sheer chance and political will and resources.
“The political leaders and those with deep pockets need to follow up and urgently begin to establish the effort and funding to make this happen.”
Theirworld held a #5for5 event in Los Angeles yesterday to give supporters and celebrities a sneek peak at the campaign and its goals.
Among those attending the event were the British actor, writer and presenter Stephen Fry, former boxing champion Audley Harrison, American authors Holliday Reinhorn and Katherine Schwarzenegger, and the Filipino writer and campaigner Evelin Weber.
The launch of the campaign coincides with the publication of a new influential report by medical journal The Lancet.
The report shows that the cost of inaction is huge. It says that "children who do not meet their development potential may forfeit up to a quarter of adult earnings, and some low and middle income countires as much as twice their national expenditure for health".
What is early childhood development?
Early childhood development supports children’s nurturing care and development from birth to five. It includes programmes and services that every child needs to thrive and get the best start in life.
What does a child need to get the best start in life?
Nurturing care includes the following areas:
• Nutrition support for babies and toddlers, nursing mothers and pregnant women
• Access to health care and clean water and sanitation – starting with ante- and postnatal visits for pregnant women, a skilled birth attendant and vaccinations
• A child with access to pre-primary learning has a much better chance of continuing to learn in later life
• Opportunities for play and early learning are just as important to healthy development as physical support
• Child protection for ensuring healthy early development - this starts with registration at birth, so that children have proper legal standing and are guaranteed access to services such as education
Researchers have proven that investing in the early years is one of the smartest investments a country can make to break the cycle of poverty, address inequality and boost productivity later in life.
The recent influential Education Commission report highlighted that “total returns on early education are very high - in some cases up to $7 for every $1 spent - and returns on early nutrition can be many times higher.”