‘Healthy, Educated and Ready to Thrive’: A Boost for Early Childhood Development in Marshall Islands

New US$27 million World Bank Early Childhood Development Project will increase coverage and quality of childhood health, education, and social protection

WASHINGTON  – Early Childhood Development services are set for a big boost in Marshall Islands, following the World Bank’s approval of a second phase of the Early Childhood Development Project (ECD II).

The Republic of the Marshall Islands faces significant challenges in building strong early foundations for childhood development. These include high rates of malnutrition and stunting affecting 35 per cent of children under five, a lack of access to quality early childhood education, and the need for more support for vulnerable families with young children.

This new project will build on the work delivered through the first phase of this project, and will continue to focus on the critical first 1,000 days of childhood through education and health home visits, boosting attendance and enrollment in public pre-schools, and increasing the number of vulnerable families with young children receiving social benefits.

“This is an investment in the future of Marshall Islands; ensuring Marshallese children are healthy, educated, and ready to learn and thrive,” said Degi Young, World Bank Resident Representative for the Republic of the Marshall Islands. “Evidence-based approaches for childhood development will come to the fore in this expansion of RMI’s existing early childhood development program.

“We also look forward to working alongside trusted partners such as Women United Together Marshall Islands, UNICEF and others to deliver this important work.”

ECD-II develops and scales up the ECD-I project approved in 2019 and carries some of the funding for that project forward into the new work – resulting in a total investment of US$30 million between the two projects. This expansion will gradually increase cash transfers to include all expectant families or those with children under five, and will ensure the most vulnerable families and children across Marshall Islands see the benefits of expanded quality maternal and child health, nutrition, and early education services.

“The first phase of the Marshall Islands Early Childhood Development Project has played an important role in improving how the government approaches early health and education, and we welcome this new assistance to support the holistic development of Marshallese children,” said Kino Kabua, Republic of Marshall Islands Chief Secretary. “These important investments in the health, nutrition, and education of our next generation, alongside support to government services, will help create brighter futures and more sustainable care for Marshallese children.”

The project will increase the availability, quality, and coverage of health and nutrition services for infants, children and mothers through support for the health workforce sector; better health equipment, infrastructure and supplies; and improved health data and information.

The new project will also provide more support to caregivers with home visits for vulnerable families with young children, while increasing the focus on male caregiver support. The project will also fund an increase of pre-school classrooms; the recruitment and training of more teachers, and investments in more inclusive learning materials – including enhanced digital learning for outer island communities.

These efforts will be supported by behavior change campaigns to build greater understanding of early childhood development among Marshallese communities while financing the creation of a national ECD strategy and a national monitoring, evaluation and learning framework to ensure improvements to the sector are sustainable and expanded into the future.

Lastly, the project will fund part of the Marshallese government’s direct social assistance program, which provides conditional cash transfers to families supported through the Early Childhood Development project. This new World Bank support will fund cash transfers to an estimated 3,500 vulnerable families in Majuro, Ebeye and neighboring islands.

 

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