One of the most sensitive phases in human development extends from the prenatal period up to the age of 8 years, a period characterized by rapid brain development and the acquisition of foundational skills and competencies. Multiple studies have shown that capitalizing on and investing in early childhood development (ECD) interventions accrue long-term economic and social returns to society. Nevertheless, to be beneficial such investments need to be mindful of the overall health and nutritional status of the child, given that an unhealthy or malnourished child gains minimal benefits from such early education and stimulation. ECD interventions are hence cross-sectoral in nature, requiring integration across multiple sectors, including health, nutrition, early stimulation, education and child protection.
Equally important is the inclusion of parents, family members and communities at large to ensure holistic and optimal growth of children. Interventions should be made to ensure proper pre and postnatal health care, mother and child nutrition, child rearing, early learning and stimulation. Realizing the critical role of ECD, Karakorum International University, Government of Gilgit-Baltistan in collaboration with Rupani Foundation, Pakistan Alliance for Early Childhood, Aga Khan Development Network, World Learning, Hashoo Foundation, AIOU, Scaling Up Nutrition and Brac arranged a two-day seminar at Gilgit. The primary objective was to review and discuss overall progress made by the government and private sector in respect to Early Childhood Development (ECD), share best practices and models and, create awareness among the stakeholders on the development at National Level. Soon after the seminar the organizers developed a detailed action plan on the recommendations aiming at working on the short-term targets before the next conference and developing plans for the long-term targets. The policy dialogue “Investing in Early Years” is one of the targets set forth by the partners to mainstream ECD sector in Gilgit-Baltistan.