• Across the world, young children and their families have been particularly vulnerable during the COVID-19 crisis.
  • In Kenya, during the peak of the lockdown, over 11% of children under the age of four went to bed hungry.
  • One study found that 19% of households in Mexico with young children experienced job loss.
  • The World Bank has released $1.1 million in funding, to support 28 project proposals in 28 countries, providing targeted support.
  • Here's 4 things they learnt while issuing support during the pandemic.

Young children and their families have been particularly vulnerable during the COVID-19 crisis. A survey of caregivers during COVID-19 in Pakistan found that emotional well-being of some children deteriorated significantly, particularly for those from poorest households and with parents also experiencing distress. In Kenya, during the peak of the lockdown, over 11% of children under the age of four went to bed hungry.

A forthcoming report found that 19% of households in Mexico with young children experienced job loss. This shock was twice as large for poorer households. In these households, young children were more likely to spend time unsupervised and experienced a significant reduction in stimulation activities with caregivers (such as reading stories or playing).

We also completed an emergency COVID-19 funding round, which provided grants (up to $50,000 USD) to World Bank teams to work with governments to support young children and families, with 28 proposals from 28 countries, worth $1.1 million USD, approved. Many grants are implementing some of the ideas suggested in our guidance note and the majority are directly supporting parents remotely to provide care and learning opportunities for their children. Almost all grants finance activities that tap into existing infrastructure and delivery channels, linking to World Bank projects and government programs already operating at scale. Many grants have ensured that ECD is included in government COVID-19 responses when before programs did not necessarily provide support to young children. At approval, the grants were expected to reach 19.5 million children and 20.7 million parents; initial results, however, indicate that the total numbers reached will be substantially higher.

a chart showing the approved banks
The grants are expected to reach over 19.5 million children and 20.7 million parents.
Image: World Bank

Lessons learned one year later:

1. When reaching families remotely, have multiple touch points and deploy a range of mechanisms to reach and communicate with families - from regular phone calls to parents to mass communications campaigns.In Indonesia, Bank teams supported the government’s “My Home My School” remote learning program to empower teachers and parents to support young children’s development during school closure. ELP funds also supported the development of national ECD COVID-19 response guidelines, manuals for parents and teachers with home-based ECD curriculum, videos for public education, technical support to deliver the program, and progress monitoring. The program has already reached 11.5 million young children.

2. Strategies should be tailored to the connectivity, needs, and behaviors of the families. When designing the remote counselling intervention, the team in Peru worked with government to categorize the levels of connectivity of families, and developed tailored communication strategies to reach them. Families in rural areas were difficult to reach as many did not have mobile phones or radios, so community leaders were mobilized using existing communication methods, such as walkie-talkies and loudspeakers. By analyzing monitoring data, the team found that families preferred to receive messages in the afternoon since parents, especially mothers, were busy with household activities in the morning.

What is the World Economic Forum doing to improve digital intelligence in children?

The latest figures show that 56% of 8-12-year-olds across 29 countries are involved in at least one of the world's major cyber-risks: cyberbullying, video-game addiction, online sexual behaviour or meeting with strangers encountered on the web.

Using the Forum's platform to accelerate its work globally, #DQEveryChild, an initiative to increase the digital intelligence quotient (DQ) of children aged 8-12, has reduced cyber-risk exposure by 15%.

In March 2019, the DQ Global Standards Report 2019 was launched – the first attempt to define a global standard for digital literacy, skills and readiness across the education and technology sectors.

The 8 Digital Citizenship Skills every child needs
The 8 Digital Citizenship Skills every child needs
Image: DQ Institute

Our System Initiative on Shaping the Future of Media, Information and Entertainment has brought together key stakeholders to ensure better digital intelligence for children worldwide. Find our more about DQ Citizenship in our Impact Story.

3. Even in an emergency response, system strengthening is key to delivering quality services at scale. In Colombia, ELP resources were used to develop the Bienestar (“Well-being”) app to monitor ECD service delivery under the government’s Mis Manos te Enseñan (My Hands Teach you) Initiativethat supports young children and families during the COVID-19 crisis. Families use the app to report problems with delivery or quality of the food or materials and to monitor their children’s developmental progress. This enabled the government to tailor support to families’ needs and to better promote children’s early learning. The data from the app will also help improve the procurement mechanisms and inform the incorporation of the remote monitoring approach and the Bienestar app into in-person ECD services in the future.

4. There is an opportunity to use resources and programs developed in response to the COVID-19 crisis in the medium term and bring them to scale. In Ethiopia, posters and brochures with messaging on coping/stress management, nutrition, hygiene, playful parenting and early stimulation have been developed and distributed to beneficiaries of the Bank’s Urban Productive Safety Nets Project and ECD messages for radio and television have been produced. Building on this initial success, donors are providing additional financing to expand the number of radio and television messages from 12 to 24, with an objective of reaching 3 million children and caregivers with ECD messaging.The unique nature of the pandemic has highlighted what we’ve known all along: parents are key to ensuring children’s survival, care and learning and it is critical to support them directly . Interventions that support parents to support their children should continue to be central to the efforts that support human capital growth even beyond the current crisis.