Integrated Early Childhood Development in Dedza
Early Childhood Development (ECD) services provision in Malawi aims to protect the rights of the child to develop holistically by paying attention to all areas of child development including health, nutrition, early learning, stimulation, protection, hygiene and sanitation both at the household and community level.
Investing in early childhood development interventions – especially the first 1,000 days of a child’s life is considered a golden window of opportunity for child development – is a proven approach to improving infant and young child growth, development, learning and protection. That is why AECDM with funding from Unicef is implementing an Integrated ECD project (with focus on the first 1,000 days) in Chimbiya zone, Dedza.
The project in Dedza district aims at:
- Building the capacity of community health workers with an enhanced focus on CBCC educators/facilitators and managers, and Health Surveillance Assistants (delivering health and nutrition services at community level).
- Promoting positive parenting skills and practices adopting life cycle approach through communication for development activities to improve community interest and practice of responsive caregiving. Through UNICEF support, care group cluster leaders have been equipped with skills and knowledge to counsel mothers and caregivers on positive parenting and proper nutrition skills. These care group cluster leaders conduct cooking sessions where the preparation of age appropriate foods from locally available foods is demonstrated. They also assist CBCC members to cook fortified porridge for children at the CBCCs. They also conduct home visits that include counselling and screening of children aged 6 to 59 months for acute malnutrition. The screening of children helps with early identification of malnutrition and early referral for appropriate care and treatment from health facilities. Cluster leaders also equip parents with positive parenting skills for their children to survive and thrive.
- Establishing effective linkage between targeted Community-based Child-care Centres (CBCCs) Community Care Groups (CCGs) with health facilities to ensure provision of MNCH/Nutrition services including immunization, Vitamin A supplementation, ANC, treatment of common childhood illnesses, community-based management of acute malnutrition (CMAM) through integrated outreach services and village clinics.
- Supporting the Implementation of the Community-based Health/Nutrition strategies to provide children, pregnant adolescents, mothers/fathers with an integrated package of services supportive of ECD, Care and learning.
The support has enabled the ECD interventions in the area to be integrated within a multi-sectoral health and nutrition package using existing platform of CCG, CBCC and health facilities. This has played a central role in the promotion of early stimulation, positive parenting and responsive caregiving to better address multi-generational cycle of malnutrition and lack of early care and stimulation.