CAIRO - 19 May 2022: UNICEF and the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab Middle East and North Africa (J-PAL MENA) at The American University in Cairo (AUC) co-hosted Thursday a seminar titled “Early Childhood development: Guiding investments in long-term human capital development in Egypt”.
The seminar featured H. E. Dr. Nevine El-Kabbag, Minister of Social Solidarity; Dr. Wael Abdel-Razek, Head of the Primary Health Care and Nursing Sector at the Ministry of Health and Population; Dr. Karen Macours, Professor at Paris School of Economics and Co-Chair of the Health sector at J-PAL Global; Mr. Jeremy Hopkins, UNICEF Representative in Egypt; Dr. Inas Hegazy, Early Childhood Development Specialist at UNICEF Egypt; and Alison Fahey, Executive Director of J-PAL MENA at AUC.
Dr. Karen Macours shared insights from J-PAL’s global evidence base on guiding investments in multiple domains to foster long-term human capital development in Egypt, focusing on the following key takeaways:
a. Encouraging early childhood stimulation from parents and caregivers can improve children’s cognitive development.
b. Targeting nutritional practices or supplementation can have positive impacts on ECD outcomes, although the evidence is mixed.
c. Improving coverage of preventive health services can reduce illnesses that hinder children’s development; d. Conditional Cash Transfers (CCTs) can cut across multiple domains to increase healthy behaviors for children in the short-run and improve their health and education outcomes in the long-run.
H. E. Dr. Nevine El-Kabbag, Minister of Social Solidarity stated: “The Ministry of Social Solidarity has a mandate to promote ECD in Egypt. We approach it from a social protection aspect, to develop a comprehensive and multi sectoral approach towards child cognitive and social development. We look at it not just through an education lens but to engage and work with caregivers and children to promote a social justice angle and promote long-term human capital development.”
Dr. Wael Abdel-Razek said: “The main challenge is a lack of awareness. We are using different ways to reach different socioeconomic groups in society to fulfill all needs of early childhood, especially at the age of vaccinations. We are working on the under 5 mortality of children and we’re using automation of different governmental services and digital transformation to have a comprehensive approach.”
Mr. Jeremy Hopkins, UNICEF Representative in Egypt stressed that “every child has a right to the best start in life, healthy development and learning. UNICEF’s work on early childhood development is based on what is essential for a child’s development: nurturing care, good health and nutrition together with a stimulating and safe environment.” Mr. Hopkins added
"UNICEF is closely working with the Ministry of Social Solidarity and development partners to build a comprehensive Early Childhood Development Strategy and to leverage partnerships for children".
Alison Fahey, Executive Director of J-PAL MENA at AUC emphasized, “rigorous evidence from around the world underscores the importance of investing in early childhood development – for children's cognitive and socioemotional development, and for their later life outcomes including employment and income. Getting policy design and delivery details right is important, and we are glad to share what we have learned from rigorous evaluations of effective programs worldwide in hopes this can help inform the early childhood development investments being made in Egypt. We are proud to be working with the Ministry of Social Solidarity on an ongoing evaluation of its nurseries program, and are eager to partner with others working on critical early childhood efforts.”
This seminar was the sixth in the Global Evidence for Egypt Spotlight Seminar Series, which brings together Egyptian policymakers and J-PAL affiliated professors in a discussion about how to tackle pertinent policy issues in Egypt. During each seminar, policymakers highlight a particular development priority in Egypt. J-PAL affiliated researchers frame the policy issue from a global perspective and offer evidence-informed insights for improving policy and program design.
In dialogue, the panel of policymakers and J-PAL affiliates ground the evidence in the Egyptian context and together explore possible policy solutions.
The Global Evidence for Egypt (GE4E) Spotlight Seminar Series was launched in 2019 to foster a discussion among Egyptian policymakers, development practitioners, and J-PAL affiliated researchers on timely policy priorities in Egypt using rigorous evidence.