State Counsellor talks at length on importance of early childhood care

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State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi observes books displayed at the launching ceremony for the Myanmar Early Childhood Care and Development Strategy in Nay Pyi Taw yesterday. PHOTO: MNA

State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi delivered a speech at the launching ceremony for the Myanmar Early Childhood Care and Development Strategy and a national-level negotiation which were held at the Kempinski Hotel in Nay Pyi Taw yesterday.
Attending the ceremony were Union Ministers, Deputy Ministers, MPs from the Pyithu and Amyotha Hluttaws, state and regional ministers for social affairs, high-level department officials, officials from UN affiliated agencies, representatives from INGOs, NGOs, and specially invited guests.

Education as a fill-in for underdeveloped countries
In her address, the State Counsellor said Myanmar’s most precious and important resource was its human resource, and thus, it was important to aim for human development and recognize the value of human resources. She said childcare education should begin in the womb and the first steps to protecting and developing our human resources would be taken if mothers were provided with proper healthcare and taught to understand the importance of ensuring correct development and providing sufficient nutrition in the first 24 months of a child.
The State Counsellor said the healthy development of physical and mental aspects of a child were important, adding that a developing country such as Myanmar was likely to face more obstacles. Rich and developed countries provide full nutritional support and healthcare services to both mother and child, while developing countries do not have the means to fulfill these criteria, said the State Counsellor. She said her administration couldnot give as much support as they wished to, but the key to resolving this lay in educating mothers to enable them to provide the best future for their children with all resources at their disposal.
Malnutrition in childhood affects adulthood
The State Counsellor said malnutrition could have serious long-term consequences, saying that Myanmar’s athletes could not perform as well as they should have in the recent 19th ASEAN University Games due to lack of a healthy diet in their early childhood. She also said Myanmar’s
footballers could not keep up with teams from more developed countries in the second half of the matches not due to lack of perseverance or spirit but childhood malnutrition issues.

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State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi delivers the speech at a launching ceremony for the Myanmar Early Childhood Care and Development Strategy in Nay Pyi Taw yesterday. Photo: MNA

She said everyone in the country knew how important a healthy diet was for children but not many realize the need forhealthy brain development. People in the country would not conclude that a child did not have proper nutrition in their diet if they did not succeed academically; instead they may assume the child wasnot studying or that their family could not create a conducivelearning environment, said the State Counsellor. She added that malnutrition in the first two years wouldnot allow a child’s brain to fully develop and would affect their physical and mental development as well.
She said everyone needed to be involved in early childhood care. It was not enough to just lecture on what should be done, pragmatic methods should be offered as well, she said.

ECCD outreach to remote locations crucial
The State Counsellor said children also needed proper vaccinations in addition to proper nutrition. Mothers needed to be healthy and free from diseases during pregnancy and before childbirth, and both the parents and the nation should be mindful to ensure that children receive the required vaccinations on time, she said. She expressed her wish for the 5-year 2018-2022 Strategy to be administered equally throughout the country.
The State Counsellor highlighted that there were educational papers, documents and books written in ethnic languages. She explained that this was to give more attention to ethnic children as they usually lived far away from big cities. She said the Union Government was attempting to provide full development opportunities regardless of the place of residence or childbirth.
Myanmar does not have full peace yet and there were still children living in IDP camps throughout the country, said the State Counsellor. She said officials at those camps need to be extra sensitive to the children’s needs, since children living in unusual circumstances tend to lose developmental opportunities. She said the government was doing its best to ensure every child in the country had access to all necessary protection, adding the public needed to help too.

Conclusion and formalities
The State Counsellor said looking out for the next generation secures the future of the country. Ensuring the correct development and growth of the children who will take care of the future of the country was extremely important. She concluded by cordially requesting everyone to participate in this endeavor with the belief that they could make a significant contribution to the best of their capabilities.
Afterwards, two videos entitled ‘Giving priority to early childhood to prevent delays in development’ and ‘Young butterfly children’ were shown to the audience.
The State Counsellor then took documentary photos with the participants and toured the photo exhibitions on display.

High-level discussions commence
Firstly, Union Ministers Dr. Myo Thein Gyi, Dr. Myint Htwe and Dr. Win Myat Aye discussed various topics including facts that should be included in the national ECCD strategy; facilitating cooperation between ministry departments, relevant organizations and the general public to accomplish the processes outlined in the ECCD strategy; attracting investment to develophuman resources; to acquire short-term and long-term benefits; expanding social protection processes; identifying children without normal development and administering timely responses; and devising other methods to protect orphaned children in addition to support from government or philanthropic organizations.
Next, officials from the Amyotha Hluttaw Women and Children’s Rights Committee, UNICEF Myanmar, and the Department of Social Welfare discussed the rights and protection of children, and the main facts of the Myanmar Policy for ECCD and ECCD Strategy.
At noon, domestic and foreign professionals and senior officials from the Department of Social Welfare discussed sustainable development goals and ECCD, the global perspectives and Myanmar’s opportunities and on-going services for ECCD, the social welfare department’s plans for ECCD, plans to support expectant mothers and their children under 2-years of age, and assessment and protection schemes for ECCD.
The high-level discussions will continue till 21 December at the Kempinski Hotel in Nay Pyi Taw.

(Translated by Zaw Htet Oo)

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