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Global Child Thrive Act Becomes Law

January 1, 2021

The U.S. Government will elevate and integrate early childhood development in its foreign assistance. 

UNICEF USA welcomes the recent passage of the Global Child Thrive Act as an amendment to the FY21 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and congratulates all UNICEF USA supporters who championed this legislation over the course of the 116th Congress. 

Introduced in October 2019 by Representatives Joaquin Castro (D-TX) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) and Senators Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Christopher Coons (D-DE), the Global Child Thrive Act (H.R. 4864 / S.2715) will strengthen the implementation of policies that advance early childhood development (ECD) in all child-focused foreign assistance programs, which includes early learning and physical, cognitive, social and emotional development for children younger than 8 years old. Building upon the U.S. Government's strategy for Advancing Protection and Care for Children in Adversity, this legislation will enable an interagency taskforce to maximize coordination of ECD policies and partnerships across Federal departments and agencies. The Global Child Thrive Act also supports the design, implementation and evaluation of pilot projects in partner countries, with the goal of taking such projects to scale.

UNICEF-supported programs follow up on migrants who have returned to their villages in India. Above, Manguben Ptel and her son Vanraj look at pre-primary education activity kits for kids during COVID-19 lockdown in Gujarat, India. © UNICEF/UNI342638/Panjwani

Through the efforts of grassroots advocates and coalition partners, the legislation garnered more than 100 bipartisan cosponsors across the House and Senate. UNICEF USA thanks the supporters who participated in virtual meetings with Members of Congress in 2020 to drive backing for the bill. In the years ahead, UNICEF USA will work with partners to ensure the law is implemented to benefit the most vulnerable children across the globe.

The earliest years of life are the most critical for healthy brain development. Integrating early childhood development into U.S. foreign assistance will support the growth and development of the 250 million children under the age of 5 in low- and middle-income countries who currently risk not reaching their full potential as a result of extreme poverty and stunting. UNICEF USA celebrates the achievement of this law as an important step in meeting the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 

Read more on UNICEF’s efforts to ensure every child has a fair start in life.

Top photo: One-year-old Emily plays with her mother as they await immunization services at UNICEF-supported Kiswa Health Centre III in Uganda. © UNICEF/UNI328384/Abdul