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Apr 27, 2017

Healthy Living and Child Care Development

For the first few years of a child’s life they are totally dependent on their parents and caretakers for all their basic needs. There have been successful strategies implemented in Belize to improve immunization coverage, exclusive breastfeeding and other child centered programs to ensure the best health for young children. But young babies, need more than good health and nutritious food; in order for a child to be able to reach its maximum potential; it is extremely important that infants and young children under the age of five are engaged in activities that promote play and communication. Tonight in Healthy Living, we find out more about the Child for Care Development Initiative and see it in practice.

 

Marleni Cuellar, Reporting
It’s a simple game of peek-a-boo; one of the easiest and simplest ways that we play with young children and rewards us with the most gratifying toothless smile. But, this trainer, Diana Nook, of the Ministry of Human Development, is actually educating this mother as to why peek-a-boo and other interactive play is crucial in assisting in the full development of her young child.

This is a field exercise at the Matron Roberts Poly Clinic in Belize City where persons who have been trained in Care for Child Development are putting their skills to the test. Leading the training exercise is Social Psychologist and UNICEF Consultant in Care for Child Development, Jane Lucas.

 

Jane Lucas

Jane Lucas, UNICEF Consultant, Care for Child Development

“The parents are the main partners. So if we can help counsel them to do the activities and stimulate the child’s development but also make the relationship strong between the parent and the child. That is probable really our ultimate aim.  These are very simple activities. We teach people to copy their child. Parents may not have thought of that as a useful activity, but we know very much if you copy what the child is doing at a very early age, the child feels like they are communicating with you. The child smiles, the parents smile, the child sticks his town out and it goes back and forth so that they are learning skills all the time that they are awake with the parent. If you don’t have this it breaks down the foundation for the rest of life.”

 

Peek-a-boo – for example- teaches babies object permanence: that objects and people still exist even when she can’t see them…like her mommy. While it may seem simplistic, there is sound scientific evidence that proves activities like these can have lasting impact. This week’s training is being conducted by UNICEF Belize in partnership with the Ministries of Health, Human Development & Education.

 

Susan Kasedde

Dr. Susan Kasedde, UNICEF Representative

“The child for care development strategy is part of UNICEF’s support toward strengthening early childhood development in Belize and is a part of a global effort to put children on track and put nations on track for successful sustainable development because they are getting the most out of every child. What were’ looking at here today is stimulation through learning and through play and through communication targeted to children under the age of five. So the children we are seeing this morning are from as young as a month old to about three years old. And it’s urgent for us to reach these parents and we have seen mother and fathers as they start out on these journeys with these youngest children.”

 

Natalia Largaespada Beer

Dr. Natalia Largaespada Beer, Maternal Child Health Technical Adviser, MOH
“It’s not only the benefit of the child that will become a productive citizen but the bonding with the mom and the social economic benefits for the family and the country and there are studies that show the evidence that what we do with a child today at an early age; we can see the results far beyond even in adulthood. We had a study done here in Belize where one of the key issues was the detachment from the parent from the mother with the boys so there is evidence now. That even violence we can curtail with care for child development.”

 

Jane Lucas

“It’s quite amazing that you can do this stimulation activity with kids under two years and now we know what happens when they are adults. So for example we find that children who have has a program of stimulation often earn twenty-five percent more in income as adults. It’s quite an amazing thing. There are some negative things that happen when you miss this. Children have more difficulty in school, children who have difficulty in school, then end up being frustrated and seeking calmness and solution through substance abuse, other opportunities that will not help them move forwarded. So these children who are stimulated longer are less apt to be involved in criminal behavior and are able to progress further in school.”

 

So how do you reach these babies, who are not part of a formal education system? That’s why this week’s training of trainers is important, preschool educators, nurses, midwives; outreach caregivers are being equipped to provide these skills to parents during their encounter with families and by next week will be equipped to train their colleagues in care for early development. That’s why this practice session was important and as Sharlene Moireira mom of six-month-old Halie testified; it’s skills she knows will help her as a parent.

 

Sharlene Moireira

Sharlene Moireira, Mother

“I have learned to calm her when she’s a bit fussy, I learn to sing to her, I read to her and talk to her but I font read to her so that’s something I learned I need to do. I’ll be better able to develop her mentally and physically because I think I’m more equipped this time around with the training.”

 

Dr. Susan Kasedde
“What we have already done in Belize is to describe the future of the country we see. We describe our future in the horizon 20/30 document as a future in which every Belizean is productive and healthy and energetic and engaged in the community.  All of this start in the early years in the early childhood development because it’s the nurturing that you get from parents, it’s the stimulation you get from a parent or a caregiver that gives you the opportunity to learn to discover a love for learning, discover new skills and new limits to your own exploration, so early childhood care and development and the care for child development strategy that we’re training on this week is exactly about preparing the very youngest children to have the right attitudes, the confidence as a well a love for learning and discovery that sets them on the path to turn into the Belizeans as adults that we defined in Horizon 20/30.”

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