We are working with our international partners to better understand and evidence how investment in high-quality ECD programmes can contribute to sustainable development and peacebuilding in low- and middle-income countries impacted by violence.
Poverty and Child Development
It has been estimated that 250 million children (43%) under 5 years of age in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) are at risk of not achieving their developmental potential. Such developmental delays are evident in the first year and cumulatively worsen through the lifespan.
The consequences of not addressing such development delays (by reducing prevalence to 15%) have, through the loss of adult income, been estimated as costing LMICs up to twice their current spend on health per year.
The exacerbating Effects of Conflict
High and sustained levels of poverty increases the risk of countries descending into civil disorder and conflict. Morever, there is strong evidence to indicate that conflict and war tends to intensify poverty. Countries that have experienced major violence have extreme poverty rates 21 percentage points higher than those with no violence.
In such contexts, the position of young children is particularly acute, with the increased risk of stunted development due to poverty being significantly exacerbated through exposure to violence and the range of mental health issues and psychological problems that result.
The Role of ECD Programmes
The 2016 Lancet Early Childhood Development Series set out clear evidence of the importance of investing in early childhood development (ECD) as a requisite for achieving many of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. From a life course perspective, the Series demonstrated the long-term benefits and returns to society of focusing on the creation of strong, nurturing environments for young children.
Inspired by our earlier research that supported the development of the Media Initiative for Children: Respecting Difference Programme for preschool children in Northern Ireland, the vision of the LINKS network is that, for LMICs impacted by conflict, investment in ECD can not only contribute to sustainable development but also peacebuilding.
Our Shared Vision
We have worked with global partners through the Early Childhood Peace Consortium (ECPC) to jointly develop the vision for precisely how we believe investment in high-quality ECD programmes can contribute to sustainable development and peacebuilding for those LMICs impacted by conflict and violence. This ECPC report, co-authored by members of the LINKS network, sets out a shared global agenda for change.