ISLAMABAD            -            National Dialogue on Early Childhood Development Policy on Thursday urged promoting investment in children’s early years for sustainable growth in Pakistan.

The week marked the conclusion of the two-day National Dialogue on Early Childhood Development (ECD) convened by the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Secretariat of the Ministry of Planning, Development and Reform, and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), to emphasise the importance of investing in children’s early years, the foundation for lifelong development.

The international consultation brought together 80 senior officials from different federal and provincial ministries as well as world experts in ECD. They reflected on the current situation of young children and families and discussed the implications for the development of a multi-sectoral ECD Policy Framework. This will guide the provinces in their work on ECD - one of the key global strategies and priorities to achieve social and economic equity.

“This consultation is a priority for the government because it is about the future of the new generations in Pakistan,” said Dr. Zafar Mirza, State Minister of National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination.

“In his inaugural speech, Prime Minister Imran Khan mentioned the detrimental impact of malnutrition and stunting on children’s development. When children are deprived of nutrition, they become stunted physically and emotionally. This has not only a moral cost, but also an economic cost. The government fully understands the issue and is committed to rise to the challenges. Human development is our biggest priority,” he added.

Pakistan’s 12th Five-Year Development Plan and Annual Plan both promote sustainable and inclusive economic growth through social and economic development, using enhanced social protection schemes to shield the most disadvantaged communities, including children. “We now need to develop a unified vision and policy framework for ECD that will guide the provinces in scaling up evidence-based, integrated services for children age 0-8 years and promote optimal brain development,” said Dr. Jehanzaib Khan, Deputy Chairman, Planning Commission.

“It is capital that we establish mechanisms at both the federal and provincial levels to ensure coordination across key sectors delivering on ECD and define indicators against which future progress can be measured,” he added.