The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has approved a $40.5 million loan for integrated early childhood development (ECD) and maternal mental health in Meghalaya while the state government is contributing $15.27 million to the project.
“The first early years—including especially the first 1,000 days—are critical to a child’s growth and development. Providing ample nutrition and nurturing care early on and enabling both parents is essential to building a strong growth foundation for a child. At the heart of childcare are mothers, making it important to ensure they have the needed health services and support,” said Dinesh Arora, ADB Principal Health Specialist.
“ADB is committed to supporting the state government’s efforts to mainstream ECD and in adopting this innovative project design that can be scaled up across the country,” Arora added.
According to an official release, the project will strengthen home-based childcare (children 0–1.5 years) and centre-based childcare (1.5–6 years) through daycare (Anganwadi) centres in the state. It aims to improve access to nurturing care, including a component of maternal mental health care and group-based parenting programs to enable the inclusion of fathers in caregiving
The assistance provided by ADB will also improve nutrient adequacy by adding eggs to the diet of pregnant and lactating women and children 0.5–6 years of age. As one of several climate-resilient features, the project will also help establish nutrition gardens at Anganwadi centres (AWC) for improved diet diversity and nutrition security, the release said.
Meanwhile, a $2 million technical assistance grant from the Japan Fund for Prosperous and Resilient Asia and the Pacific will help develop guidelines and training curricula for AWC staff and ECD educators. A new state resource centre for the developing child will be also established to serve as a centre of excellence for ECD services.
ADB will carry out a first-of-its-kind large-scale evaluation to assess the effectiveness of integrated ECD interventions in a lower-middle-income country to inform national and global childcare policies.
The ADB-supported project will upgrade 1,800 AWCs and construct around 600 new AWCs in hard-to-reach areas with climate-resilient designs. These AWCs will serve as daycare centres, and staff will be augmented with a new ECD educator who will help extend centre-based childcare services to children 1.5–3 years old, in addition to children 3-6 years of age.