Hanoi welcomed 500 guests from around the world for the 2019 Asia-Pacific Regional Conference on Early Childhood Development (ECD) on Wednesday, focusing on the need for nurturing sustainable environments for young children.
Deputy Prime Minister Vu Duc Dam opened the regional conference citing the importance of ECD to Vietnam and the rest of the world.
This year’s regional conference called for all to work across sectors to promote nurturing and sustainable environments for young children.
The Hanoi conference gathered members of parliament and ministers, government officials, experts, practitioners, academics, and advocates to raise awareness of the threats young children face and how these should be addressed.
Co-sponsored by Vietnam’s Ministry of Labour, War Invalids, and Social Affairs (MOLISA) and the Asia-Pacific Regional Network for Early Childhood (ARNEC), the ECD conference highlighted the role of the environment in the protection and development of the child.
ARNEC: knowledge platform for ECD in the Asia-Pacific
Through the annual regional conference, ARNEC board chair Sheldon Shaeffer cited the need to share and learn ECD initiatives from participants, as well as good practices, such as those from Vietnam.
Dong Hoa Nam, director-general of MOLISA’s Department for Children’s Affair, delivered a presentation on Vietnam’s integrated early childhood program.
ARNEC also organized a special joint meeting among members of parliament, ministers, and other government officials to share key legislation and programs for young children.
Shaeffer explained that ARNEC is committed to being a leading knowledge platform for ECD in the region by connecting policymakers, practitioners, and other stakeholders to work together to advance the well-being of young children.
Global experts: environmental threats, ECD impacts
The Hanoi conference brought together international experts to keynote plenary discussions.
In addition to Dong Hoa Nam, other experts included Dr. Carlos Dora, visiting professor at Columbia University, New York, and global health expert on the environmental threats young children face, implications to their health and development, and the role of policies and partnerships to address these.
Dr. Aisha Yousafzai, who serves in global advisory groups such as the World Bank’s Early Learning Partnership and the Executive Group of the Early Childhood Development Action Network, spoke on the importance of creating a nurturing environment for young children in the context of climate change.
|Attendees pose for a group photo at the Asia-Pacific Regional Conference on Early Childhood Development in Hanoi on December 4, 2019 in this supplied photo.|
Dr. Kidong Park of the WHO and Dr. Mazrura Sahani of the National University of Malaysia shared insights on the adverse effects of transboundary haze and air pollution on young children.
Dr. Ana Maria Nieto from the LEGO Foundation explained the power of play in building the resilience of young children, including their families and communities.
Threats facing young children
Experts stressed that for young children to have a bright future, a nurturing and sustainable environment should be created through the right policies and programs for the physical, community and home environments.
According to the WHO, about seven million children die from air pollution every year, and nine out of 10 breathe air not fit for human consumption.
In such an environment, the youngest children suffer the most.
Not only does it harm their overall health, but it impacts their cognitive development.
In addition, risks arising from climate change and fragile environments also affect communities and households, making children more vulnerable to the effects of poverty, toxic stress, insecurity, and mortality.
The regional conference triggered plenary and roundtable discussions, and research presentations and exhibits, including exchange of noteworthy ECD practices around the world and study visits to successful ECD initiatives in Vietnam.
Participants paid site visits to Ha Nam Province to experience learning clubs for the first 1,000 days, and Dong Anh for a community library supporting ECD.
ECD themes would focus on parenting and play; disaster risk reduction; urban environment; childcare, decent work and gender equality; and child protection, including issues of violence against children.