The World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF and the World Bank, in collaboration with the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn & Child Health and the Early Childhood Development Action Network, recently launched a Nurturing Care Framework for Early Childhood Development at the 71st World Health Assembly.

The framework provides an evidence-based roadmap for action to promote and strengthen the nurturing care of young children. It shows how policies and services can support parents, caregivers and communities towards effective early childhood development (ECD). It includes the guiding principles, strategic actions and monitoring of targets and milestones towards this goal. It calls for effective national programmes that are driven by strong and sustained political commitment. The framework draws on best practices from countries around the world. It is designed to help countries meet their Sustainable Development Goals, particularly relating to ECD.

The framework shows that investing in ECD is one of the best investments a country can make for economic growth, sustainable societies, and eliminating extreme poverty and inequality. Nurturing care is defined as the foundation for child development, referring to a stable environment created by parents and other caregivers that ensures children’s good health and nutrition, protects them from threats, and gives them opportunities for early learning.

The cost of inaction is demonstrated to be unacceptably high for individuals and societies. Adults who experience adversities in early childhood are estimated to earn close to a third less than the average annual income of their peers, while it also increases the cost for countries that choose to spend less on health now as future costs from the results of poor child growth and development will invariably be more.

Following its launch, countries will take the lead in working towards national milestones to 2023, supported by UNICEF, the World Bank and WHO, alongside partners from all sectors. Questions from CB to the WHO representative went unanswered.

In a press release shared with CB, Dr Michelle Bachelet, former president of Chile and board chair of The Partnership for Maternal, Newborn & Child Health, paid tribute to the collaborative effort and said, ‘Over 1,000 individuals from 111 countries have contributed to crafting the framework that recognizes that nurturing care not only promotes physical, emotional, social and cognitive development, it also protects young children from the worst effects of adversity. It produces lifelong and intergenerational benefits for health, productivity and social cohesion.’

‘We know that developing an individual’s full potential and a country’s human capital is highly dependent on giving children the best possible start through quality early childhood development, including early nutrition and stimulation,’ said Annette Dixon, vice president for Human Development at the World Bank Group.