Safe Spaces: The Urgent Need for Early Childhood Development in Emergencies and Disasters

Kolleen Bouchane, Molly Curtiss, and Bethany Ellis - Best Start, Theirworld

This paper from Best Start (a global campaign for Early Childhood Development led by children’s charity Theirworld) emphasizes the need for holistic early childhood development (ECD) programs - Safe Spaces - for young children in emergency situations. The paper describes some of the biggest threats to young children's development and wellbeing in emergencies, and what is needed in many different areas of emergency response, including physical protection, support for mothers and children (such as breastfeeding initiatives), combating toxic stress and building resilience, and psychological and emotional support for children and caregivers. It provides case studies and examples of ECD programs in emergency contexts around the world, including a mother and child program in the Philippines and a nutritional and psychological support program for refugee children in Chad. The paper highlights the work of agencies and groups like UNICEF, IRC, the Inter-Agency Network for Education in Emergencies (INEE), and others to deliver ECD services in humanitarian response. It concludes with recommendations for improving ECD programs and services in emergency response.

"This paper highlights that while a great deal of work has already been done to bring Safe Spaces to children in emergencies, too often these efforts have been fragmented or have not targeted the youngest children. We need increased prioritisation and donor investment to make these efforts systematic and far reaching and to expand the capacity of existing programmes so that no children are left behind."