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A new partnership aims to improve conditions for children in Pakistan

by Veronika Bryskiewicz May 2 / 13

As many as 200 million children living in developing countries may not be reaching their full potential.*

According to research from CIFAR’s Child & Brain Development program, without adequate nutrition, access to health care and education, and an overall, nurturing environment, a child’s development and future life course can be seriously hindered.

Schoolchildren in Karachi. (credit: Ziba Vaghari)

That message is at the heart of a new partnership that aims to build on child development research to help improve early-year conditions for children in Karachi, Pakistan. With seed funding from CIFAR to kick start initial discussions, a new partnership has been formed between the Human Early Learning Partnership (HELP) at the University of British Columbia and the Aga Khan University of Pakistan.

The partnership will build expertise at the AKU in the use of the Early Childhood Development Instrument (EDI)—a survey tool spearheaded by the late CIFAR Senior Fellow Clyde Hertzman that helps identify a child’s early vulnerabilities. This tool—which presently covers 80 per cent of children across Canada—will now be used in 560 schools in Karachi, Pakistan. The partnership will collect information on the conditions of early childhood development in Karachi to support policy and program development.

This initiative is one of Clyde Hertzman’s important legacies. Under his direction in recent years, HELP had turned its attention to improving global awareness of early childhood development. To help put early development on the international agenda, Hertzman was successful at linking it to other international efforts to improve child wellbeing, such as the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

“The idea to link child development to childhood rights came about after Clyde and a few colleagues wrote a report for the World Health Organization,” said Ziba Vaghri, director of international research and initiatives at HELP. “The report made a series of recommendations on how early childhood can be improved worldwide. One recommendation was to incorporate this principle into existing international treaties, like the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, because it has such strong political backing.”

Following the success of the report, HELP worked with WHO and other multinational groups to create an indicator framework that countries now use to evaluate their compliance with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. It was through this work that a collaboration with the Aga Khan Foundation took shape.

“This new partnership with Aga Khan University brings to an exciting fruition an initiative by the CIFAR Child & Brain Development program and UBC’s Human Early Learning Partnership,” says Tom Boyce, co-director of the CIFAR program and interim director of HELP. “It is a partnership in which Clyde Hertzman would have taken great pride.”

* From a WHO report titled “Early Child Development: A Powerful Equalizer.”