Protecting and Enhancing Early Childhood Development (ECD) during Covid-19 Crisis across the Indian States of Kerala, Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat On Going

Duration: August 2022 – September 2024

Status: On-Going

Funder/ Parnter: UNICEF India

India is home to approximately 164 million children 0-6 years of age, constituting about 20 percent of the world’s child population in this age group. Yet, with 38.4 percent children under 5 years of age stunted, 21 percent wasted, and only 9.6 percent children aged 6-23 months receiving an adequate diet, many children are at high risk of not fulfilling their developmental potential. The Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) scheme, established over forty years ago to improve children’s health, nutrition, and education, boasts an enrollment of roughly 32 million children for preschool education. Despite the policy commitments, investments in ECD are not considered to be sufficient, efficient or equitable. The COVID-19 crisis has introduced new challenges, with ECD negatively impacted in the Union Budget for the current 2021/22 fiscal year due to slowing economic growth and revenue contraction.

The government is committed to improving ECD outcomes as a key strategy to achieving its national development goals and SDG targets. The COVID-19 crisis has posed many new challenges and risks, it also presents a unique opportunity to build on UNICEF’s previous work on child related investments in general and ECD financing, and support the government to rethink how to deliver on ECD and related services in a more efficient cost-effective manner.

The project is structured around three work streams related to analysis, advocacy and capacity building, to be undertaken at both national and state level:

  1. Analytical work to support the government’s efforts to improve the planning, costing and prioritization of critical services for young children
  2. Multipronged advocacy strategy to leverage analytical work to support government decision making
  3. Capacity building and technical assistance to support state government stakeholders to improve planning, costing, budgeting and spending related to ECD services

The initiative will focus on a National Level Analysis plus 3 states of Gujarat, Kerala and Uttar Pradesh.

Project Contacts: Madhusudhan B V Rao and Neha Ghatak