ARNEC, 26-29 May 2009 : The Asia-Pacific ECD in Emergencies workshop was organized in Phuket, Thailand from 26-29 May 2009 by UNICEF (APSSC, EAPRO, ROSA) and Save the Children Alliance, with the support of INEE (Inter-Agency Network for Emergency Education in Emergencies) and Consultative Group’s Early Childhood Care and Development in Emergencies Working Group (CGEEWG). The workshop brought together 60 participants from 13 countries - Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Vanuatu and Vietnam. The participants were representatives from ministries, UNICEF and Save the Children officers (mostly those working on ECD under the Education programmes) as well as resource persons from emergency, ECD, Education, Health and WES (Water, Environment and Sanitation) sectors. Several core members of ARNEC were also represented.
The region has experienced many types of emergencies over years, both “natural” disasters – such as earthquakes, tsunami and floods and those of man-made, such as conflict and political unrest, as well as current financial crisis and silent emergency of ‘poverty’. With the steadfast increase in frequencies of emergencies, and the growing number of affected young children, the workshop was designed to increase understanding of ECD in emergencies, to share country experiences and lessons learned, and to support countries in the development of country plans for various phases of an emergency giving special attention to holistic development of young children.
Arnaud Conchon, UNICEF ECD in Emergency Specialist, urged that primary challenges were to convince the humanitarian community and policymakers that effective ECD programmes do make a difference, to craft advocacy messages for donors that guarantee the value of returns on investment and to mainstream ECD interventions in every sector emergency planning (of education, health, child protection, nutrition, water and sanitation sectors) through improving linkages between sectors.
Participants shared challenges faced in their own countries. Myanmar’s recent experience of the cyclone Nargis revealed the lack of reliable disaggregated data especially for 0-5 year old children, poorer understanding of the importance of young children’s development/learning needs compared to that of primary school aged children. In South Asia, particularly in Bangladesh and Pakistan, priorities are often given to men and their livestocks, before providing safe shelters for women and children. Overall, ECD has been placed as a non-priority in comparison to immediate relief for food, temporary shelters and health. The lack of focus particularly on the 0-3 age group, psychosocial support and educational activities for young children and support to families to better cope with stress; limited human resources and funding; and poor long term solutions for education and ECD support in emergencies were among common challenges.
We also saw encouraging signs. The government of China has become more aware of the negative impact of emergencies on young children both physically and psychologically. At the occurrence of the Sichuan earthquake of 2008, the level response was low for the care of young children and their caregivers particularly in nutrition and development aspects. With support from UNICEF, ‘Child Friendly Spaces’ were initiated throughout the affected areas. The integrated services address psychosocial needs of children from 0-12 and their parents. Save the Children also supported children’s activity centers as well as ‘Baby Wash Stations’ with an aim to providing safe, child-friendly environments conducive to post earthquake wellbeing, where carers are offered learning opportunities related to better childcare. The next step is to discern the experience and the lessons learned and incorporate the holistic ECD into the national emergency preparation and response plans.
Bangladesh has formed a Disaster Management Bureau, which has drafted the National Plan for Disaster Management 2007-2015 and Standing Order on Disaster explaining duties and responsibilities regarding disaster management at all levels. In Indonesia, the Disaster Risk Reduction module was integrated into lesson plans of ECD teachers’ training in primary schools. 96 ECD centers were also established in Aceh province two years after the tsunami.
Some global initiatives were also introduced. CGEEWG jointly with INEE and have been working on the position paper on ECD in Emergencies involving a number of partner agencies and resource persons all around the world (which will be available shortly).
The Cluster Approach has been developed by key UN and non-UN humanitarian partners as to improve international humanitarian responses to emergencies. It clarifies the roles and responsibilities of different organizations, thus making the relief measures more structured, accountable and professional. Each cluster is coordinated by Cluster Leads, or lead organizations. For examples, the education cluster is co-led by UNICEF and Save the Children. Since January 2009, 36 countries have applied the Cluster Approach globally, with 28 countries having activated the Education Cluster.
UNICEF HQ developed ECD Kits, containing a set of early learning and play materials to serve up to 50 young children accompanied by a handbook and a user guide for caregivers. The Kits will be launched in July 2009 and will be ready for distribution to countries. During the workshop, participants examined the items in the Kits and their usability in their countries. Most participants considered that the Kits contained a wide range of items addressing multiple development domains, which would encourage parents/caregivers to play with young children when timely access to safe materials could be hard in emergencies. Some less positive sides included the weight and bulk of the Kits, concerns over cultural relevancy, and items being considered ‘luxurious’ in their local contexts. It was also suggested that countries could use the Kits as a prototype for making their own kits locally. Cambodia has shared practical guides to make their own play materials using low-, no- cost materials available locally.
During the latter part of the workshop, participants engaged in three group exercises. The first was to map out current ‘sectoral’ inputs/activities targeting young children (by age group within early childhood period) and their families. The intention was to see gaps and opportunities for cross sectoral linkages for collaboration to address holistic ECD altogether. The other two exercises were to assess current partnership dynamics and political, economic, social and cultural landscapes through SWOT analysis, specific to each country. Based on the findings, country teams drafted follow-up action plans that individual participants would do after returning to their home countries with the goal to develop national emergency plans explicitly addressing holistic ECD.
Finally, the participants called for support needs at regional/global levels; that includes:
- Stronger regional/global level advocacy for ECD in general and specifically for ECD in emergencies to influence policy makers at country level
- Compilation of available resources including cutting edge scientific evidence, good practices and practical technical tools (e.g. assessment tools, implementation guidelines, learning materials, etc.), policies/standards, case studies from the field; and share them with countries around the region (*specific request for ARNEC)
- Organization of conferences/seminars/workshops bringing back interested countries together for further knowledge exchange, peer review and technical networking
Compile and upload available resource materials and information on ECD in emergencies on ARNEC website
- Include feature stories on ECD in emergencies in the next issue of ARNEC Newsletter;
- Compile research and case studies on ECD in emergencies from the region
- Make sure to address the importance ECD in emergencies in the EC Policy Review Series and advocate for holistic ECD addressed explicitly in national emergency plans and policies
- Specifically address the ECD in emergencies in the ARNEC regional advocacy initiatives
- Expand linkages and collaboration with non-educational sectors and increase ARNEC members
- from health, nutrition, WES, child protection, social policy, etc; and
- from research/academic institutions that have a programme on emergency issues for (young) children and families
Dr. Judith Evans, the facilitator, summarized that ECD in emergencies is going in the right direction, is pioneering work, and that what everybody is doing for their own country is also contributing to this field regionally and globally. The importance of strong partnerships was emphasized as being crucial to the success of meeting the rights to holistic ECD. Those concerned with helping children during emergencies, including Governments, UNICEF, Save the Children Alliance, global and regional networks such ad CG, INNE, ARNEC, local and International NGOs should strengthen partnerships to tackle the problems faced together. With good collaboration, more attention can be focused on young children in emergencies to effect important change to ensure that their specific needs are met.
Related resources links:
- General Comment 7: Implementing Rights in Early Childhood (GC7). This provides explicit reference points in terms of a country’s response to young children based on the Convention on the Rights of the Child. A copy of GC7 can be found at: www.ecdgroup.com.
- The International Network of Education in Emergencies (INEE) provides access to the following materials, found at www.ineesite.org:
- Operational Guidance on Infant and Young Child Feeding in Emergencies (2001)
- INEE Minimum Standards for Education in Emergencies (2004), Chronic Crises and Early Reconstruction
- Inter-Agency Guiding Principles on Unaccompanied and Separated Children (2004)
- Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) Guidelines for HIV/AIDS Interventions in Emergency Settings (2005)
- UN Interagency Policy on Mine Action and Effective Coordination (2005)
- Guidebook for Planning Education in Emergencies and Reconstruction (2006), in particular, Chapter 13, “Early Childhood Development”
- Guidelines on the Formal Determination of the Best Interests of the Child (2006)
- Mental Health and Psychosocial Well-Being Among Children in Severe Food Shortage Situations (2006)
- A Human Rights-Based Approach to Education for All (2007)
- Save the Children has produced many resources for working in emergencies. See: The Unique Needs of Children in Emergencies, A Guide for the Inclusion of Children in Emergency Operations Plans September 2007. http://www.savethechildren.net
- The work of Early Childhood Care and Development in Emergencies Working Group (EEWG) under the umbrella of the Consultative Group on Early Childhood Care and Development (CGECCD). http://ecdgroup.com/emergencies.asp