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Aga Khan University’s Human Development Programme signs MoU with UNICEF on early childhood development in Pakistan

The Aga Khan University – Human Development Programme (AKU-HDP) has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to collaborate on the project ‘Reducing Inequalities by Enhancing Early Childhood Development for Vulnerable Population in Pakistan’. The two-year contract was signed by Dr Salim Virani, AKU Vice Provost, Research and UNICEF Country Representative Mr Abdullah Abdulaziz Fadil.

Early Childhood Development (ECD) is an important area of focus in developing countries, the wider Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN), as well as around the world. This project will develop a comprehensive ECD manual that will provide guidance on all elements of the nurturing care framework as well as other cross-cutting themes for promoting the optimal development of children from birth to eight years. The project will establish a sustainable network of ECD master trainers for ongoing knowledge dissemination.

Dr Salman Kirmani, Interim- Director at AKU-HDP said: “The Human Development Programme at Aga Khan University has always stood up for the most vulnerable amongst us, and I am thrilled to partner with UNICEF on this vital project.’Reducing Inequalities by Enhancing Early Childhood Development for Vulnerable Populations in Pakistan’ is a significant step towards ensuring that every child, regardless of their background, has the opportunity to thrive and reach their full potential. Together, we are committed to creating a brighter future for the children of Pakistan.”

In addition, Dr Salim Virani remarked, “Early Child Development (ECD) is an important area of focus in the world, especially in the developing countries. Healthy development in early years provides a strong foundation for lifelong health, educational achievement, economic productivity, responsible citizenship, and successful parenting of the next generation. That is why investing in the development of young children maximizes their future well-being.”

In this project, AKU-HDP will develop ECD educational materials, including modules. The project will also include the creation of a guidebook on ECD in emergency situations. ECD workers across Pakistan will be trained on these modules to help institutional and local authorities plan, coordinate, monitor, and evaluate ECD programmes. AKU-HDP will use existing data for decision-making to improve the outcomes of young children, as well as conduct operational research, generate evidence and knowledge management for decision-making to improve child development outcomes.

UNICEF Regional Head, Mr Abdullah Abdulaziz Fadil said, “We need to make ECD an indigenous concept. The most basic caring practices are missing in our routine. We need to demystify ECD and bring ideas from the Globe into it and work on them from within the community.”

Collaborations, such as the current partnership between UNICEF-Pakistan and AKU’s Human Development Programme, which has resulted in projects such as ‘Reducing Inequalities by Enhancing Early Childhood Development for Vulnerable Population in Pakistan’ are key to realizing full human potential. Such programmes benefit not only ordinary Pakistani children, but also those who are often denied the opportunity that every child deserves.

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