Myanmar has launched its first ever multi-sectoral policy on early childhood care and development ( ECCD), calling for increased government investment in the services for young children to enable them to have a better start in life and for the hopeful future of the country.
Wednesday's state media quoted President U Thein Sein as stating that the future of children depends on the implementation of ECCD activities which are not just about the quantity but also the quality of services.
Myanmar Minister of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement ( SWRR) Dr. Daw Myat Myat Ohn Khin stressed at the launching ceremony the need to fully cooperate with development partners for achieving the vision, mission and objectives collectively agreed upon for children.
The SWRR ministry pledged to inject 28 percent of its budget in ECCD services instead of only 10 percent, while the Education Ministry is committed to spending 12 percent of its budget in early pre-school and kindergarten education in place of low-level investment.
UNICEF Myanmar emphasized the importance of investing in early childhood, saying investment in ECCD is the most cost-effective way for national development as it could yield high economic returns and break the cycle of poverty.
"Launching the ECCD policy is the first concrete step toward mobilizing more resources across ministries for the support to early childhood development and a crucial measure in tackling child poverty and reducing inequalities," it said, highlighting the importance of collaborative efforts of parties concerned including the private sector.
The Multi-Donor Education Fund (MDEF) involving Development Assistance of Australian Aid also expressed willingness to provide continued support for the comprehensive policy for children.
According to UNICEF Myanmar statistics, Myanmar has achieved only 22.9 percent in ECCD service coverage while other ASEAN member countries 57 percent.
There has been also a great service coverage gap for urban and rural areas with 39.1 percent and 15.9 percent respectively, the figures show.