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Leaders Preparing Post-2015 Development Agenda Must Recognize Value Of Investment In Early Child Development

“Considerable progress has been made over the past decade towards Millennium Development Goal 4,” which aims to reduce the under-five mortality rate by two-thirds between 1990 and 2015,” WHO Director-General Margaret Chan writes in a Lancet opinion piece. “The number of deaths among children younger than five years has declined from 12 million in 1990 to 6.9 million in 2011,” she notes and asks, “But do the surviving children have an equal chance to realize their human potential, achieve social justice, and contribute to sustainable development?” She states, “The global community has an obligation to ensure that all children develop to full capacity, not only as a human right but also for equitable prosperity and sustainable progress of societies.”

“Three areas are critical foundations for healthy child development: stable, responsive, and nurturing caregiving with opportunities to learn; safe, supportive, physical environments; and appropriate nutrition,” Chan notes. “The reason we have to ensure that child development stays on a healthy track is because we now know much more about the consequences of it being off course,” she states, adding, “Adverse early experiences — e.g., unstable caregiving, deprivation of love or nutrition, and stresses associated with neglect and maltreatment — greatly increase the likelihood of poor health across the entire life course.” She writes, “As in the case of child survival, the promotion of early child development requires common understanding, shared commitment, and united action across government sectors and by all development agencies and institutions.” Chan concludes, “As world leaders are preparing the post-2015 development agenda, the time is right to recognize that investment in early child development is essential, not only for good health but also for sustainable development” (5/4).