Making a positive impact on early
development in Africa

February 22, 2022 by Children Believe

ChildFund’s Canadian-based member Children Believe is helping communities recall the importance of the early stages of child development through work in maternal and child health in Africa. 

Since Children Believe began working in the country in 1987, it has stayed true to a commitment to create a future of hope for children, families and communities. Recently, the organization’s Ethiopia team led a project in Africa to prevent the death of mothers, newborns, and children under the age of five due to health complications.

These activities were part of a broader effort across Kenya, Malawi and Tanzania, called the Canada-African Initiative to Address Maternal, Newborn and Child Mortality (CAIA-MNCM) during 2016-2020. The four-year CAIA-MNCM project, with funding from the Government of Canada, focused on three key goals: improve delivery of essential health services; improve use of the essential health services; and increase consumption of nutritious food and supplements.

To do this, teams conducted training in the healthcare workforce and improved health facilities and services by supplying medical equipment, installing solar-power systems and building maternity waiting areas as well as water, sanitation and hygiene facilities. Communities also benefited from education on health and essential services as well as the establishment of local support groups, with an estimated 410,000 people benefitting from the project. The impact of Children Believe’s work on maternal and child health in Africa, with support from CAIA-MNCM and other projects has included:

  • Equipment, supplies and training have created a stronger healthcare infrastructure, so supported facilities can offer newborn delivery services.
  • More community members understand the value of health services and are open to using them.
  • Men are supporting the use of maternal and child-health services at health facilities, improving women’s decision-making power.
  • There are less underweight children as mothers and pregnant women are accessing nutritious food and supplements.
  • Ultimately, the culture of maternal and child healthcare has shifted, creating a path to progress and lasting change.

Children Believe teams also have been advocating for early-childhood development (ECD) and promoting the Learning-Through-Play (LTP) methodology. This approach hones in on activities that support physical and cognitive growth, relationship-building, communication and social skills, emotional maturation and self-confidence in children. For example, imagine interactive and tactile activities such as singing, dancing and playing with clay.

LTP connects parents with their child’s development, encouraging a parent-child attachment and better gender equity. It includes working with governments, communities, health-service providers, educational institutions and like-minded organizations to provide play facilities and materials, water systems and furniture for schools, training on ECD-LTP and child rights, education on health and nutrition as well as assistance in forming supportive community groups.

Annually, LTP activities in Burkina Faso and Ghana benefit nearly 50,000 children, aged zero to six. Program results show school enrollment has increased, the quality of teaching and learning has improved, both parents are more involved in raising their children, and spaces for children in family decision-making have emerged.

Next up, Children Believe is looking forward to supporting the Ghana government in advancing ECD and helping 90,000 children, teachers, parents, caregivers, health workers learn and grow through a new project launching soon. Learn more about Children Believe’s work in ECD:

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