Latin America and the Caribbean: Five Million Will Benefit From Early Childhood Initiative: An Investment For Life

February 28, 2012

Initiative has surpassed original target

Washington: February 28, 2012 – Five million mothers, and children ages 0 to 6, are benefiting from World Bank (WB) programs developed throughout the Latin American region, under the Early Childhood Initiative: An investment for Life, the multilateral bank announced today.

After two years of operation, the initiative has approved US$400 million worth of projects, doubling the initial projected funding, and surpassing the original total commitment of US$300 million for the period 2010-2013. It has also expanded the number of targeted children who were able to benefit in the first year of operation.  

The initiative seeks to implement comprehensive, well articulated and efficient Early Child Development (ECD) policies and programs in order to ensure all children a full opportunity to succeed later in life. Currently the initiative supports ECD programs in most countries in Latin America, either through lending programs, grants or technical assistance.

“Doubling down” on early childhood development shows countries in LAC recognize that investing early is investing smartly.  ECD is not only good for children, it also provides a high payoff for societies and the economy. Those first five years of life decide the future of a child and its ability to interact in society as an adult,”  said Hasan Tuluy, the newly appointed World Bank Vice President for Latin America and the Caribbean. “ 

The Early Childhood Initiative: An Investment for Life was launched two years ago at World Bank headquarters by WB President Robert B. Zoellick and Shakira Mebarak’s ALAS Foundation.The initiative is designed to help reduce inequality among children.  It supports efforts that help ensure children get the attention, nutrition and stimulation they need, from ante-natal care through to entering school.

Roadmap to success

The Bank is working with governments to ensure that ECD programs are well coordinated across the relevant entities so each puts in place an integrated package of services (health, nutrition, education, etc).

According to Keith Hansen, Human Development Director in LAC “each project has a unique formula for how best to invest in children.   Projects form partnerships with various levels of government and civil society, across all social sectors, and are aligned with national circumstances.”

Country highlights:

Argentina: The World Bank has been supporting Plan Nacer, Argentina's results-based approach to reducing infant and maternal mortality.  A package of basic interventions is provided to provincial pregnant women and children under six.  Today, there are more than 1.7 million beneficiaries of the program. 

Brazil: Services in 28 Brazilian municipalities across 10 states have been mapped in a user-friendly web format and two interstate exchange workshops organized.

Belize: Belize’s District of Toledo has the highest rates of poverty and nutritional deficiencies among all districts in the country, affecting mostly the indigenous Mayan population.   To address this challenge, the World Bank through a Japanese Social Development Fund (JSDF) Grant is helping the Government use an ECD approach to address the continuum of childhood development at the community level.

Bolivia: The Bank and Japanese government-funded program supports a series of interventions in the poorest and most vulnerable urban districts, particularly linking employment for young mothers and quality childcare.  The program also helps the Government of Bolivia to improve the quality of existing childcare services, strengthen the capacity of government officials to monitor and evaluate projects. Project implementation is scheduled for 2012.

El Salvador: The Salvadoran program aims to protect and enhance the human capital of very young children residing in violence–prone urban areas, particularly protecting urban children from the food crisis.  An estimated 35,000 poor and vulnerable mothers and young children will benefit from continuous support from the grant for a period of three years.

Honduras: The Nutrition and Social Protection Project in Honduras is a community-based initiative that helps to combat malnutrition in the country's poorest communities.  The program employs NGOs to train community volunteers who in turn work with local mothers to teach them about proper hygiene, advantages of exclusive breastfeeding, and the importance of growth monitoring. The volunteers also weigh and measure children 0-2 years old to ensure they are growing properly.

Peru: In Peru, the Bank is supporting the Juntos program, to support the demand, supply, and governance of nutrition services provided by the Government.  The program reaches about 60,000 families living in Peru's poorest districts.

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