The first 1,001 days of a child's life are critical

 

Background

The first 1,001 days of a child’s life are critical. During the period from conception to age 2 years the foundations of a baby’s mind are being put in place and early relationships with caregivers during this time can affect the infant’s development in ways that have enduring consequences.

Living in poverty and under chronic stress, as many parents in low- and middle-income countries do, can undermine a caregiver’s ability to provide the sensitive, responsive care that is necessary for optimal child development . However, there is now accumulating evidence that interventions aiming to promote parenting in low- and middle-income countries are effective and lead to benefits to children’s development across a broad range of domains. Lancet series on Child Development have highlighted the need for interventions to include nurturing care, as has the World Health Organisation.

Interventions aiming to promote parenting in low- and middle-income countries have been found to be effective and lead to beneficial outcomes for children. However, they are not widely available and awareness of their benefits is limited.

The Home Visiting Programme

The Home Visiting programme run by Ububele in Alexandra Township in Johannesburg, South Africa is an example of one such intervention. Ububele is a mother and infant mental health charity and the goal of their intervention is to improve the development potential of the infants who participate, by supporting the mother’s capacity to care for her infant in a way that will best facilitate the baby’s healthy development. Ububele trains local women from the community who are all mothers themselves to be home visitors.  They go from home to home supporting new and expecting mothers in Alexandra, a township which has high levels of unemployment, poverty and HIV. New mums often live alone, thousands of miles from their extended families. 80% of the mums the Home Visitors meet had unplanned pregnancies and 73% report physical or emotional abuse.

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