Millions of children across the world are not reaching their developmental potential. Our campaigns provide parents and caregivers with the simple tools they need to stimulate their children’s development in order to give them the best start in life and help them fulfil their potential.


By the age of 4, it is estimated that over 40% of children in Sub-Saharan Africa fail to meet the cognitive or socio-emotional milestones expected for their age. Many are likely to do poorly in school and subsequently have low incomes and high fertility as adults. This consequently leads to poorer provisions of health care, nutrition, and stimulation for their own children, thus contributing to the intergenerational transmission of disadvantage.

Intervening in the first 3 years of life is a highly effective way to help children develop to their full potential. In this period, complex brain development takes place that affects cognition and motor skills, laying the foundations for educational achievement, economic productivity, and reduced inequality. Effective stimulation during this period plays a key role in encouraging brain development, whilst poor nutrition and sub-optimal parental interactions hinder it. Parent-focused interventions which encourage cognitive stimulation can allow children to compensate for delays in their development due to adverse circumstances such as malnutrition. The benefits of such early interventions can still be measured many years later.

The numbers

250 million
under 5 year olds do not reach their developmental potential
young children in Africa fail to meet cognitive milestones
Mother and child playing with a jigsaw representing early childhood development

Our ECD Work

Our ECD campaigns encourage caregivers to engage with and cognitively stimulate their children in the first three years of life, when crucial neural connections are formed. We work with health centres and community health workers as well as radio and TV outlets to share practical advice with caregivers on how to interact with their children in order to support their children’s development.

Our messaging is aligned with the Nurturing Care Framework, a roadmap for global action on ECD launched by WHO, UNICEF and the World Bank in 2018. It encourages interactive behaviours such as talking, praise, and play, while also promoting the important role of nutrition in supporting children’s cognitive health.

Our first evidence of impact on ECD outcomes comes from a 2011 study conducted in partnership with the University of West Indies. Since then, DMI has expanded its focus on ECD, and run ECD campaigns in six countries. We recently embarked on the first randomised controlled trial to test whether a radio campaign alone can shift ECD outcomes.