Home visits to boost children’s learning and well-being in Ethiopia

In the last 12 months, ICDI and ESD have together been working hard to design a comprehensive home-visiting programme for vulnerable families in Ethiopia, as part of the project ‘Making the first 1000 days count!’. The idea is to support families with children under 3 to talk and play with their children, to support their overall development.

Last week, we visited Ethiopia to meet with the families who participated in the piloting of the home visiting programme, to hear about their experiences so far and how the programme could be further improved. 

The programme is developed to supplement the existing health extension workers’ programme, supported by the national Ethiopian government, which is focusing mainly on health and nutrition. As one of ESD staff said to us:

‘the project is highlighting the gaps in the current health extension programme and is supporting communities to embrace new perspectives. Now community members and parents think of their children as persons and learners from age 0, not from school age anymore’. 

In December 2018 and January 2019, 30 families received nine visits from the health extension workers and the community facilitators trained by ESD.

The evaluation of the pilot is showing us that the project is already achieving important results: families feel supported, they are learning new things about children’s well-being, health and education, and they welcome the contact with a trusted and friendly person.

As described by one of the home visitor: ‘We now look at children in their environments and in their relationships. We can better support them in getting ready for school while we also make sure that both parents and children are happier and healthier’.

Not surprising, it is clear that the skills and capacities of the home visitors are key to the success of the programme. We are taking further steps to mentor and support home visitors. During the visit, ICDI provided a 2-day follow-up training for ESD staff and the home visitors and prepare the programme for its full implementation. ESD will accompany the home visitors through a mentoring trajectory and offer them continuous support for their personal well-being as well as for their professional development.

Along with the home-visiting programme, ESD is setting up 7 Play Hubs in the Debre Birhan area (North Shoa district, Amhara region). These are family friendly centres where young children can access toys and educational activities, parents can participate in workshops about child rearing, health, education, and services can connect with each other and reach out to the ‘hardest to reach’ families. We believe that the combination of the home visits with the Play Hubs can provide the necessary support for families and young children to thrive.

Later this year, we will be making available the Home Visiting Toolkit, with the hope that this programme can be further expanded and transferred to other contexts.  

This project is financially supported by Dioraphte