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Twelve reasons why the Arab world needs to pay more attention to early childhood development

Will Stebbins's picture
Also available in: العربية | Français
 Arne HoelInequality begins early in life. In the Middle East and North Africa region it begins before birth, as prenatal care is not universal, and continues right through early childhood with different levels of access to vital nutrition, health services and early education. Missing out on any one of these key development factors can leave a child at a permanent disadvantage in school and adult life. There is also the risk that inequality entrenched early in life is passed on to the next generation, creating a cycle of poverty. A new World Bank report has calculated the different chances that a child from the region’s poorest 20% of households (least advantaged child) and  a child from the region’s richest 20% of households (most advantaged child) have for healthy development.
  • In Algeria, while still in the womb the least advantaged child has a 52% chance of receiving pre-natal care while the most advantaged has a 99% chance.
  • In Djibouti, the least advantaged child has a 46% chance of having a trained attendant assisting their birth while the most advantaged has a 100% chance.
  • In Egypt, the least advantaged child has a 2.8% chance of dying before their first birthday, while the most advantaged has a 1.1% chance.
  • In Iraq, the least advantaged child has a 34% chance of being fully immunized by their first birthday while the most advantaged has a 91% chance.
  • In Jordan, the least advantaged child has a 29% chance of being stunted due to malnutrition, while the most advantaged child has a 2% chance.
  • In Lebanon, the least advantaged child has a 12% chance of being fully immunized by their first birthday while the most advantaged has a 79% chance.
  • In Libya before the current crisis, the least advantaged child had a 40% chance of having access to iodized salt, essential for cognitive development, while the most advantaged child had a 73% chance.
  • In Morocco, the least advantaged child has a 25% chance of being underweight due to poor nutrition while the most advantaged child has only a 2% chance.
  • In Syria before the current crisis, the least advantaged child had only a 2% chance of attending nursery school or daycare before the age of 5, while the most advantaged child had a 69% chance.
  • In Tunisia, the least advantaged child has a 4% chance of attending nursery school or daycare between the ages of 3 and 4, while the most advantaged has a 92% chance.
  • In the Palestinian Territories, the least advantaged child has a 17% chance of being stunted due to malnutrition while the most advantaged has a 6% chance.
  • In Yemen before the current crisis, the least advantaged child had a 15% chance of being fully immunized by their first birthday while the most advantaged had an 88% chance.
Investments focused on early childhood to promote equal access to key health, nutrition and education services could change the lives of millions of children in the Middle East and North Africa. These investments would also contribute to breaking the cycle of poverty by ensuring the seeds of inequality are not firmly planted during the earliest years of life. 

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