Summarized by: Corinne Sakyi
What is the context for this research?
Over the years, researchers and policymakers have become increasingly aware of the importance of child development. Despite the immense improvements in child survival, many developing countries are still faced with the challenge of reducing children's risk for poor development.
The 2007 Lancet series on early child development (ECD) estimated that in 2004, 219 million children under the age of 5 years were unable to reach their developmental potential. Using the most updated data for stunting and extreme and moderate poverty, the 2016 Lancet study provided a global, regional and country level updated estimate of the prevalence of children at risk for poor development for the years 2004 and 2010.
How was the research conducted?
The 2016 study used data from 141 low- and middle-income countries. The data was compiled using World Bank estimates, individual country poverty measures and other estimates made on a country-by-country basis.
What were the main findings?
The study demonstrated that children at risk for poor development included those living in moderate and extreme poverty and those who were stunted—i.e., extremely shorter than other children of the same age and gender. From 2004 to 2010, the prevalence of children at risk of poor development declined from 51% to 43% in low and middle-income countries. Stunting similarly decreased from 30% to 25% during the same period.
Globally, sub-Saharan Africa had the least change and continued to have the highest rates of children at risk for lifelong difficulties. 55 million (38%) of children in Sub-Saharan Africa were stunted; 72 million (50%) of children lived in extreme poverty (lived on <1.25 USD/day) and 115.5 million (81%) were at risk of poor development. This made sub-Saharan Africa perhaps the most vulnerable region of the world for the safety and the health of children.
Figure 1: Regional Estimates (in percentages) of children at risk of poor development in 2004 and 2010 using extreme poverty ($1.25)
What were the study's conclusions or recommendations?
Even though these results seemed encouraging, the paper revealed that much more progress is required in order to identify and reduce the number of countries at risk for poor childhood development.
A major challenge identified by the study was the absence of an international standard for identifying at-risk children.
This made it difficult to get accurate estimates of stunting and poverty rates. Furthermore, many factors that were likely to contribute to poor childhood development such as access to school, level of maternal education, violence in the home, maternal depression, and adverse environmental conditions were not included in this data set.
Lu, Chunling, Maureen M. Black, and Linda M. Richter. "Risk of poor development in young children in low-income and middle-income countries: an estimation and analysis at the global, regional, and country level." The Lancet Global Health 4.12 (2016): e916-e922
Early Childhood Development in Ghana
Even though about 74 % of children aged 36-59 months in Ghana are developmentally on track, regional disparities exist with the Western Region having the highest early childhood development index (88%) and the Eastern Region having the lowest early childhood development index (55%)
Figure 2: Proportion of children aged 36-54 months who are developmentally on track in Ghana
Children in Ghana with the least early childhood development index are those who are not attending preschool (38%). Besides, mothers with no education have more than twice as many children who are developmentally not on track as compared to mothers with secondary education.
Figure 3: Proportion of Ghanaian children aged 36-54 months who are developmentally not on track, by socio-demographic variables
The Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (2011) shows that while 97 percent of children aged 36-59 months are developmentally on track in the physical domain, much less are on track in learning (89%), social-emotional (73%) and literacy-numeracy (28%).
Figure 4: Percentage of children aged 36-54 months in Ghana who are developmentally on track based on the four main developmental domains
Generally there has been a decrease in net enrollment of children aged 0-3 years in crèche/nursery from 2001 to 2014 except in Accra where there has been an increase of 1%. The Western and Volta regions have the steepest decline of 9% and 7% respectively.
Figure 5: National and regional percentage change in net enrollment of children aged 0-3 years in crèche/nursery, from 2001 to 2014
Figure 6: National and regional variations in net enrollment of children aged 0-3 years in nursery/creche in Ghana, 2001-2015