Stakeholders to develop roadmap for childhood development

Accra- Stakeholders have converged at a meeting in Accra, to outline priorities, strategies and actions for the implementation of the Nurturing Care Framework (NCF) for Early Childhood Development (ECD).

Dr Anthony Nsiah-Asare, the Director-General of the Ghana Health Service (GHS) in his welcome address, said the Framework which was developed by the WHO, UNICEF, the World Bank and other partners, built on the foundation of Universal Health Coverage, with primary care as an essential strategy ensuring sustainable growth and development.

It paid attention to the need for the child to receive nurturing care and for caregivers to provide the required services with a particular focus on the first 1,000 days of life starting from conception, where there was brain formation and essential growth in the body.

He underscored the importance of good nutrition and care in the brain and body development of babies and children, saying optimal nutrition during pregnancy and early childhood was essential for the well-being of the mother and the baby and that those living in poverty lacked these, and must be given the needed attention to address any inter-generational gaps.

Dr Nsaih-Asare said the Framework called for mutually accountable partnerships between relevant sectors related to health, nutrition, education, social welfare, child protection and environmental health, and encouraged common action, while promoting common results through leadership.

He said the GHS would continue to strengthen its role in promoting the health and wellbeing of children, focusing on strategies that fostered family and community participation in the activities, and explore and strengthen key interventions for pre-pregnancy, pregnancy, delivery and early infancy and childhood periods to accommodate the emerging issues of nurturing care for early childhood development.

The GHS would also continue to scale up services and monitor its progress, using data to inform planning and decision making as well as design innovative interventions to promote the health and development of children.

He encouraged all stakeholders to embrace the implementing issues under the NCF and commit to supporting the plans that would eventually be developed, and remember to include; governance and accountability system to monitor the implementation.

Mr Kwaku Agyeman-Manu, the Minister of Health, in a speech read on his behalf, said the Sustainable Development Goals embraced Nurturing Care for ECD in order to catalyse the transformation that the world seeks to achieve by 2030.

He said the SDGs among other things envisioned that by 2030 all boys and girls would have access to quality ECD, care and pre-primary education, to prepare them for primary education, but that would only be possible if children received the best of care and good nutrition needed for their optimal growth development.

He said the initiative should ultimately result in the design and rollout of high quality ECD programmes and services for all children in Ghana with the aim of ensuring their survival and thrive through nurturing care to improved national productivity and growth.

Mr Agyeman-Manu however said since the determinants of maternal and child health was complicated it required broad stakeholder collaboration to ensure success, and urged the meeting to come out with innovative, comprehensive and home-grown strategies on how best to implement the nurturing care framework in Ghana.

He said the initiative should ultimately result in the design and rollout of high quality ECD programmes and services for all children in Ghana with the aim of ensuring that all children survived and thrived through nurturing care and transformed to contribute to improved national productivity and growth.

Dr Owen Laws Kaluwa, the WHO Country Representative, in a speech read on his behalf, congratulated Ghana for being the first country in the African Region to launch the NCF for ECD, saying even more laudable is this next step taken to bring stakeholders together to chart a roadmap for the implementation of the framework.

He pledged the commitment of the WHO towards the consensus building for effective ECD, and urged participants to identify feasible, affordable and scalable implementation models that were tailored to local context and to demonstrate the impact that would follow.

Mr Niyi Ojuolape, the UNFPA Country Representative, commended the GHS for moving faster in the institutionalisation of the framework and the development of a roadmap to this purpose.

He however underscored the need to appreciate the role of midwives in ECD, saying they were the entry point to the health systems and gateway to families and communities, and unless their minds were tuned to this, we might miss the critical role they play in ECD.

He indicated that currently the focus of Midwifery training in most countries including Ghana, was on the provision of skilled obstetric care and deliveries.

There was the need to address the gap so that midwifery training fully prepared midwives on their role as well, pointing out that the most formative experiences of young children came from nurturing care which should start from conception through to the first 1,000 days of life.

He also stressed on the need to target vulnerable groups in including; teenage mothers, in any strategies intended to promote nurturing care need to be underscored.

Source: Ghana News Agency