Millions of children around the world live in humanitarian situations—forced to flee their homes due to conflict, political or economic crisis, natural disasters, health pandemic, displacement as a result of climate change or fear of persecution. During these periods, which can often last several decades, young children miss critical supports to help them survive and thrive to their full potential.
In humanitarian situations, multiple adversities threaten young children’s ability to flourish and reach their full potential. These include:
The accumulation of multiple adversities in the critical first years of life–when brain development occurs at the most rapid pace–can have long-term, negative impacts on the child’s future learning, behavior and health. Exposure to repeated or prolonged challenging circumstances, such as those faced by children living through conflict or other emergency contexts can result in increased levels of cortisol flooding a child’s brain, this is known as ‘a toxic stress response,’ which can affect brain development, affecting the child’s learning, behavior and health with long-lasting impacts, not only for the child but for the societies in which they live.
Additionally, experiences of conflict and crisis can influence caregiving behaviors, depriving young children of the stable, responsive and nurturing care they need in order to thrive.
For infants and young children growing up in crisis contexts, quality ECD can save lives and set the foundations for a more positive life trajectory.
This thematic page provides key information for those supporting children in humanitarian contexts or for those that want to.
Parents and caregivers are children’s first and most important teachers in life. Supporting them – their well-being, knowledge and skills – is therefore critical for young children’s ability to survive and thrive. Supporting them could be done through various ways. Some ways include:
Inter-Agency Network for Education in Emergencies ECD in Emergencies Task Team, https://inee.org/task-teams/early-childhood-development
Moving Minds Alliance, https://movingmindsalliance.org/
Early Childhood Peace Consortium, https://ecdpeace.org/
Nurturing care for children living in humanitarian settings, https://nurturing-care.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/NC_Thematic_Brief_Humanitarian_Settings_WEB.pdf
Moving Minds Alliance, Supporting the Youngest Refugees and Their Families: Early Childhood Issue Brief, https://movingmindsalliance.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/moving-minds-brief-supporting-the-youngest-refugees-grf2019-web.pdf
Moving Minds Alliance, Analysis of international aid levels for early childhood services in crisis contexts: Key insights, https://movingmindsalliance.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/analysis-of-international-aid-levels-for-early-childhood-services-in-crisis-contexts-key-insights.pdf
Moving Minds Alliance, ECD and Early Learning for Children in Crisis and Conflict, https://movingmindsalliance.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/ecd-and-early-learning-for-children-in-crisis-and-conflict.pdf
Their World, Safe Spaces: The Urgent Need for Early Childhood Development in Emergencies and Disasters, https://theirworld.org/resources/detail/report-safe-spaces-the-urgent-need-for-early-childhood-development-in-emergencies-and-disasters
UNICEF Core Commitments for Children in Humanitarian Action https://www.corecommitments.unicef.org//ccc-2-4-3
UNESCO, Global Education Monitoring Report, Early Childhood Development and Early Learning for Children in Crisis and Conflict, https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000266072
Early Childhood Peace Consortium, Contributions of Early Childhood Programming to Sustainable Peace and Development, https://ecdpeace.org/contributions-early-childhood-development-programming-sustainable-peace-and-development
Global Refugee Forum and UNHCR, Global Framework for Refugee Education, https://www.unhcr.org/5dd50ce47.pdf
Shah, S. (2013), Investing in the Youngest: Early Childhood Care and Development in Emergencies, Plan International, https://plan-international.org/publications/investing-youngest
DFID, Health and Education Advice and Resource Team, https://inee.org/sites/default/files/resources/Sweta-Shah-Reading-Pack-1.pdf
IASC Guidelines on Mental Health and Psychosocial Support in Emergency Settings and Accompanying Field Checklist
UNICEF, Early Childhood Development in Emergencies Integrated Program Guide https://www.unicef.org/documents/early-childhood-development-emergencies
Interagency Working Group on Infant and Young Child Feeding in Emergencies, Infant and Young Child Feeding in Emergencies Operational Guidance, https://www.ennonline.net/attachments/2671/Ops-G_2017_WEB.pdf
Plan International and UNICEF (2016), Early Childhood Development, Health and Nutrition in Emergencies, https://plan-international.org/publications/early-childhood-development-nutrition-and-health-emergencies
Plan International and UNICEF (2016), Early Childhood Development and Child Protection in Emergencies, https://plan-international.org/publications/early-childhood-development-and-child-protection-emergencies
Plan International, Early Childhood Care and Development in Emergencies: a Program Guide, https://plan-international.org/publications/early-childhood-care-and-development-emergencies
Shah, S. (2019), Early Childhood Development in Humanitarian Crises: South Sudanese Refugees in Uganda, https://www.routledge.com/Early-Childhood-Development-in-Humanitarian-Crises-South-Sudanese-Refugees/Shah/p/book/9780367228576
Murphy, K., Yoshikawa, H. and Wuermli, A., (2018), “Implementation research for early childhood development programming in humanitarian contexts”, Annals of the New York Academy of Science, https://nyaspubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/nyas.13691
UNICEF (2019), UNICEF Early Childhood Development Kit for Emergencies Evaluation Synthesis
Rabbani A, Padhani ZA, A Siddiqui F, et al. Systematic review of infant and young child feeding practices in conflict areas: what the evidence advocates. BMJ Open 2020;10:e036757. doi:10.1136/ bmjopen-2020-036757
Wilton, K. et al (2017), “Parenting in Displacement: Adapting Vroom for Displaced Syrian Families”, https://www.rescue.org/sites/default/files/document/2086/parentingindisplacementreport-single-101917.pdf
No time to Wait,
Falling Through the Cracks: Young Children in Emergencies, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8372847/
Covid-19 & Parent and Caregiver Support in Emergencies
The Nurturing care framework for early childhood development: A framework for helping children SURVIVE and THRIVE to TRANS- FORM health and human potential builds upon state-of-the art evidence of how child development unfolds and of the effective policies and interventions that can improve early childhood de- velopment.