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WB, Shakira Launch US$300 Mln Early Childhood Initiative

Xinhua, February 23, 2010 Adjust font size:

World Bank President Robert B. Zoellick and Grammy Award-winning artist Shakira Monday launched a US$300 million joint initiative aimed at expanding development programs for young children in Latin America and the Caribbean.

The "Early Childhood Initiative: An investment for life" seeks to focus cost-effective policies and resources in the region, while mobilizing public support to improve opportunities for its young citizens and thereby help overcome deep inequalities, said Zoellick during a signing ceremony of the partnership agreement between Shakira's ALAS Foundation, Columbia University's Earth Institute and the World Bank, held at the Bank's Washington D.C. headquarters.

Early Childhood Development (ECD) programs provide children with adequate nutrition, healthcare and stimulating environments from the moment of conception through age six a period of development crucial for achieving a child's full potential.

The initiative will help expand ECD programs in a region where 9 million children under five suffer from chronic malnutrition and 22 million lack access to early basic care.

"If we want to build a better world, we have to give children the chance to improve their lives, no matter where they are born or how difficult their circumstances," Shakira told the an audience of 100 IPs, including Latin American and Caribbean ambassadors and officials from the education sector, along with representatives from other international organizations.

The Colombian artist is a leading activist for children and the founder of ALAS -a coalition of Latin American artists and business leaders promoting the adoption of comprehensive ECD programs in the region.

The groundbreaking initiative will provide over the next two years 300 million dollars in loans, grants and trust fund resources, as well as technical support, towards the design and implementation of ECD policies in Latin America and the Caribbean. It will also expand a learning community of practitioners to exchange knowledge and experiences.

"ALAS and Shakira in particular have made an enormous contribution to placing young children at the heart of the public policy priorities in Latin America ," said Zoellick."We are pleased to work with her, ALAS and the Earth Institute to offer hope and opportunity for children who deserve a better future."

Citing Haiti's emergency response as a timely example of working with partners, Zoellick said that ECD initiatives will play a key role in Haiti's reconstruction, where attention will be placed on rebuilding not only the country's infrastructure but also the potential of its people.

He stressed the importance of partnering with UNICEF, UNESCO and the World Food Program, among others, to provide urgent relief to the Haitian children and mitigate the long-term impact of the January 12 earthquake on an entire generation of Haitians.

(Xinhua News Agency February 23, 2010)

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