Ibero-American Summit: World Bank Funds $100 Million for Early Childhood Development in Latin America

December 3, 2010

MAR DEL PLATA, Argentina, December 3, 2010 — The World Bank today announced that it has funded more than US$100 million for Early Childhood Development (ECD) programs in Latin America and the Caribbean, approximately one third of the amount promised in February 2010 at the launch of the Early Childhood Initiative: An Investment for Life -- a joint venture of Shakira’s ALAS Foundation and the World Bank.

Today’s announcement was made at the XX annual Ibero-American Summit of Heads of State and Governments held in Mar del Plata. So far, US$103.5 million in new World Bank projects are supporting ECD programs in Argentina, Brazil, Haiti, Mexico and Peru, with several more programs planned in the years to come. *

“Early Childhood Development creates equal opportunities for all children,” said Pamela Cox, World Bank Vice President for Latin America and the Caribbean.
"Investments in Early Childhood Development are among the most cost-effective investments a country can make in its people,” she added.

ALAS and Shakira have played a pivotal role in advocating for ECD investing. In early 2010 ALAS Foundation and the World Bank launched the Early Childhood Initiative to make Early Childhood Development a priority throughout the region. The initiative aims to mobilize all sectors of society towards the implementation of comprehensive, well-articulated, and efficient ECD policies and programs to equalize opportunities of low income children early in life and ensure all children achieve their potential. The World Bank has committed US$ 300 million to fund the initiative over the next two years, including loans, technical assistance and grants to support such programs in the region. These funds are part of the Bank's portfolio in the participating countries.

The Bank has already been funding ECD programs to improve the well being of children in Latin America and the Caribbean, but inequality persists between, and even within, countries. Many children in the region are malnourished, suffer from iron, vitamin, and other deficiencies; are stunted or face other developmental challenges.

All of these conditions are exacerbated by poverty and inequality that begin at birth.

The scientific evidence, according to World Bank research on cognitive development in the region suggests that overall results achieved by young children are low and determined by their socioeconomic status, due in large part to the mother’s education and income level.

All countries in the region continue to face challenges in ensuring that children receive adequate development opportunities to reach their highest potential. Most programs supporting ECD are independent efforts that vary in scale, services offered, and mode of delivery.

In addition, coverage and quality of ECD services across the region remains limited. Few programs have defined standards and adequate resources that cover a significant group of potential beneficiary populations, especially among younger children.

*Projects approved so far by the World Bank include:

Argentina: Fifteen million dollars (US$15 million) from the San Juan Social Inclusion Project support improvements in the quality and efficiency of service provision in education in the first two years of schooling, through two specific programs: Todos Pueden Aprender (Everyone Can Learn) and Programa de Día Completo (All-Day Program). These programs are expected to help improve results during the last years of primary school and in secondary school, strengthening the human capital foundation of San Juan's society and economy.  The project purports to guarantee equal opportunity in education, particularly for vulnerable students.

Brazil: Thirty-Four million dollars (US$34 million) from the Rio Municipal Project helps local authorities reduce the annual dropout rate in schools and supports increases in IDEB and IDE results. The program also aims to raise child and preschool education enrollment by at least 3,000 licenses per year in low income communities.

Haiti: Two and a half million dollars (US$2.5 million) from the Education For All Project aims to improve access to and equity of primary education. While the ultimate goal is to ensure universal access to free basic education in Haiti, following the earthquake and in the near future, the government seeks to help as many children as possible return to school. In this context, the project takes into account the important role that both the public and private sectors can play in the immediate response and in setting foundations for a stronger education sector in Haiti.

Mexico: Fifty million dollars (US$50 million) from funds provided under The Compensatory Education Project aim to ensure that 225,000 children aged 0-4 receive preschool education while their parents and/or caregivers receive training to improve their caring abilities.
It will also guarantee that roughly 48,000 parent committees obtain direct financial support and that 2,000 underperforming schools receive intensive pedagogical support. The initiative also seeks to improve learning results.

Peru: Two million dollars (US$2 million) has been provided through a grant to support The Participatory Nutrition Program, designed and managed by the World Bank, to be executed by the Fund for the Americas (FONDAM) in close coordination with the Government of Peru. The initiative aims to improve the nutritional status and development of children under 3 years, through a participatory intervention that seeks to improve local management skills, promoting changes in behavior and developing a greater awareness of the subject among the heads of households, communities and local actors in the poorest communities of the Peruvian sierra.

“More than 300,000 children under the age of five die every year in Latin America, more than nine million are severely undernourished, and 22 million are not enrolled in preschool,” said Cox.

“All children deserve equal opportunities. We can make a positive difference in their lives. For that to be true, investment in early childhood development needs to dramatically increase,” noted Cox.

The World Bank also announced that funding and technical assistance will be made in the near future to support programs in Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Nicaragua, among others. These initiatives are implemented by the governments in the region in accordance to Bank standards.

Note to Editors:

ALAS is a Latin American nonprofit organization founded in December 6, 2006 by the most prominent Latin American artists and business leaders who saw in promoting ECD the opportunity and way to end with the intergenerational cycle of inequality in the region. ALAS, chaired by Colombian business leader Alejandro Santo Domingo, seeks to mobilize all sectors of society towards the implementation of ECD comprehensive public policies that allow a universal access to a proper nutrition, stimulation and attention to health for children between 0 and 6 years old.

The World Bank is an active member of ALAS’ Early Childhood Development Secretariat for Latin America —SEDITAL—, a platform of innovative knowledge and policies on ECD that serves countries in the exchange of information and experiences with international organizations to promote research and policies that will contribute to strategize and implement effective comprehensive ECD programs in the region.

The Secretariat brings to the partnership nine countries committed to ECD – Argentina, Colombia, Chile, Costa Rica, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay and Uruguay – and ten solid partners from international organizations and NGOs.

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