In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, unprecedented lockdown measures were imposed by governments worldwide, which included the shutdown of early childhood development and education centres. Yet research shows that early childhood interventions are pivotal in a child’s long-term development and capabilities, as well as playing an important role in female empowerment and labour-market participation.
Governments now face difficult decisions in balancing economic and societal costs of lockdown measures against the risks of increased viral transmission associated with societal reopening. The Human Development team has been working alongside UNICEF Oman throughout the pandemic to guide decision-making on these issues. We have developed guidelines for the safe reopening of early childhood development centres in Oman, in order to limit the impact on this crucial stage in the lifecycle for infants.
Our work has involved detailed analysis of early childhood development programming, epidemiological trends, as well as international best practice to produce standard operating procedures and operational guidelines for ECD centres to use during the pandemic. Our rigorous and imaginative approach has produced positive outcomes. Following coordination and training with government stakeholders in the Ministry of Social Development, the guidelines were successfully adopted and implemented, allowing the safe reopening of early childhood centres in late 2020.
We continue to advise UNICEF and the government through periodic risk assessment updates and monitoring of guideline implementation within ECD centres.