UNICEF USA joined several organizations to host “Ensuring All Children Thrive: A Global Challenge,” the first-ever Congressional event on global early childhood development (ECD).
ECD is a global priority for UNICEF, because of the importance of early physical, emotional and intellectual development that impacts the rest of a child’s life.
UNICEF’s wants to ensure that children don’t just survive, but thrive. Nutrition, play, parenting, early stimulation, and preventing toxic stress are critical to giving children the best start in life.
Several organizations including UNICEF USA had been visiting Congressional offices for months to talk about the importance of ECD, and how a focus on ECD could improve U.S. government foreign assistance programs. In those discussions, it was clear that we needed to find a way to put ECD on the Congressional radar screen. So we decided to convene an event with some of the major players in early childhood.
The event opened with a heartfelt statement by Rep. Dan Donovan (R-NY) about importance of caring for children. He noted that he had not fully appreciated the magnitude of the problems facing children around the world until a couple years ago, when a local RESULTS volunteer came to his office to talk about child survival.
There were powerful statements from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the World Bank, and an amazing call to action by Pia Britto from UNICEF. Sherrie Westin from Sesame Street (and UNICEF USA board member) talked about importance of engaging both children and parents, and then had a wonderful chat with Zari, the Afghan Muppet. Finally a representative from LEGO gave a really fun and enlightening presentation on importance of play, including the “duck build!” The presentations led into a reception with fun activities, not to mention ice cream!
This was a great way to raise awareness about an important UNICEF priority, but also to impress upon this audience UNICEF’s expertise and reach.
This is an important and impressive coalition, and we will keep you posted in coming months on our advocacy and engagement plans to make ECD a priority for U.S. foreign assistance, the way it is for UNICEF.