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PATH welcomes $8.2 million grant from the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation to improve early childhood development in Mozambique, Kenya, and Zambia

July 19, 2017 by PATH

PATH welcomes a four-year, $8.2 million grant from the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation to help thousands more children in Kenya, Mozambique, and Zambia develop to their full physical, cognitive, and social potential.

Children whose caregivers play and talk with them and are responsive to their needs show better education, health, social, and economic outcomes as adults. Yet globally, these activities, formally referred to as "nurturing care," are often absent from children's lives, especially during the critical window from birth until age three, when these activities have the greatest impact.

The investment builds on other PATH early childhood development (ECD) programs in sub-Saharan Africa, including the Hilton Foundation–supported Scaling Up Early Child Development project in Kenya and Mozambique, the Window of Opportunity project in South Africa and Mozambique (supported by BHP Billiton Sustainable Communities), and a US Agency for International Development-funded Public Private Partnership project in Mozambique.

PATH's innovative approach integrates ECD services into the work of existing government health facilities and community-level health providers at a very low cost. The approach is particularly effective at reaching children younger than age three, who can benefit the most from ECD but are often missed by programs designed to reach children in school.

WATCH: Learn about the power of nurturing care. See PATH's and the Hilton Foundation's early child development partnership in action—and hear from parents and health care providers in this short film.

Evidence-based investment

Although global efforts reduced the number of children dying before their first birthday by more than half between 1990 and 2015, an estimated 250 million children worldwide still do not reach age-appropriate developmental milestones. In sub-Saharan Africa, two of three children under five years of age are at risk for suboptimal development, which contributes to lifelong social, behavioral, and health problems and hinders their contributions to their communities and nations.

According to data from a 2016 Lancet series on ECD, growth failure in a child's first two years of life can lead to disadvantages including chronic disease, lower educational attainment, and lower earnings as an adult. Other data show that countries lose between 3 and 12 percent of gross domestic product due to poor developmental outcomes.

Simple ECD interventions between conception and age three can reverse this trend. These include responsive care and feeding, promoting play, age-appropriate toys, and engaged interaction such as talking, listening, singing, and playing. According to the Lancet series, one program to increase cognitive development of stunted children resulted in a 25 percent increase in average adult earnings.

"Support for early child development is a powerful investment not only in children's futures but also in the futures of their communities and countries," says Dr. Cyril Engmann, PATH program leader for Maternal, Newborn, and Child Health and Nutrition. "This generous grant represents a continuation of PATH and the Hilton Foundation's shared commitment to helping all children thrive."

Built on success

The project draws on PATH's four decades of global health expertise and partnerships and its existing portfolio of programs in sub-Saharan Africa, which collaborate with ministries of health, the World Health Organization, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), and other partners to provide critical services through local health systems.

Significantly, health systems provide the best and often only way to reach the youngest children and their caregivers, who engage with clinics and community health workers for routine antenatal, postnatal, and infant health services.

With support from the Hilton Foundation, PATH will train workers to screen for developmental delays and refer children with delayed milestones to further care. They will help establish boxes of locally made toys in clinics and child-friendly health facilities, providing caregivers an opportunity to learn new ways of stimulating their children while creating a welcoming environment. In addition, the team will work with political and program leaders in Kenya, Mozambique, and Zambia to expand ECD activities, integrate ECD into national health systems, and train and mentor health workers to counsel caregivers on ECD. Throughout, PATH research will explore the cost, feasibility, and impact of adding ECD into existing systems and use resulting data to expand the program and stimulate further investment.

Global focus on ECD

"This important project comes at a pivotal time for child health and development," notes Dr. David Fleming, PATH vice president of Public Health. "Globally, support for ECD is expanding as leaders recognize the impact it has on the health and prosperity of children, communities, and nations. The inclusion of universal access to ECD in the global Sustainable Development Goals and the establishment by the United Nations Children's Fund and the World Bank of a global ECD/Nutrition Alliance and Action Network are also opening new doors."

With the generosity of the Hilton Foundation, PATH looks forward to creating a healthier future for children in Kenya, Mozambique, and Zambia and expanding the base of global evidence about ECD so that we can reach even more children worldwide.

Learn more about PATH's work in ECD:

See our work in action on our blog:

About the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation

The Conrad N. Hilton Foundation was created in 1944 by international business pioneer Conrad N. Hilton, who founded Hilton Hotels and left his fortune to help the world's disadvantaged and vulnerable people. The Foundation currently conducts strategic initiatives in six priority areas: providing safe water, ending chronic homelessness, preventing substance use, helping young children affected by HIV and AIDS, supporting transition-age youth in foster care, and extending Conrad Hilton's support for the work of Catholic Sisters. From its inception, the Foundation has awarded more than $1.5 billion in grants, distributing $109 million in the U.S. and around the world in 2016. The Foundation's current assets are approximately $2.6 billion. For more information, please visit www.hiltonfoundation.org.

Posted July 19, 2017.