Interventions Promoting Early Childhood Development in South Africa

An estimated 220 million children worldwide live in poverty; one-third of these children live in sub-Saharan Africa (Grantham-McGregor et al, 2007). Ten million children in South Africa alone experience extreme poverty (UNICEF, 2007). Poor children are at high risk for delayed cognitive and physical development, making increased access to school readiness and developmental support services of paramount importance in countries where poverty and limited access to education remain overwhelmingly common (Grantham-McGregor et al, 2007; Walker et al, 2007). Cognitive stimulation during the first five years of life, including activities geared towards social-emotional and sensory-motor development, can have profound positive effects on educational achievement in childhood and adolescence. Educational achievement, in turn, improves individuals’ economic potential and sharply reduces risk of poverty later in life (Walker et al, 2007). Early childhood development (ECD) programs that provide an integrated package of services to address the health, nutrition, education, social and economic needs of the most disadvantaged children have been found to produce tremendous improvements in children’s early cognitive development (Engle et al, 2007). Programs involving family and community capacity building initiatives have been shown to be particularly effective (Marfo et al, 2008).

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