The science behind caring for young children: Strengthening Nurturing Care approaches to achieve better health outcomes
This webinar, moderated by Ayesha Kadir, Senior Humanitarian Health Advisor Save the Children International, discussed leveraging science to support children and families in humanitarian contexts through nurturing care approaches.
James Cairns, from the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University, presented the science of early child development, explaining how experiences shape brain architecture from a young age. He emphasized that development does not stop in crises and stressed the importance of responsive relationships, reducing stress, and building skills.
Sheila Manji, an Early Childhood Development Specialist from the WHO, then built on this by introducing the Nurturing Care Framework. She explained the five components of nurturing care - health, nutrition, safety, early learning, and responsive caregiving - and how these must be supported through enabling environments. She provided examples of how nurturing care can be implemented in acute and protracted humanitarian crises.
There was discussion about bringing concepts of early child development to humanitarian staff and using technology to support caregivers. Both presenters emphasized that nurturing care is a holistic approach requiring cross-sector collaboration and an understanding of child development science. They stressed that even in crises, biology seeks adaptation, and small positive interactions can promote resilience.