Evaluating UNICEF’s Early Childhood Development Programme in Palestine
Between 2019 and 2020, KIT evaluated a multi-sector programme led by UNICEF to improve early childhood development services for children living with disabilities in vulnerable districts of the West Bank and Gaza.
Early Child Development is a Priority for Palestine
The State of Palestine has suffered from violence and protracted displacement for more than 50 years. Basic health services remain a serious concern, and Palestinian children continue to face challenges that severely their ability to reach their full potential. Children with disabilities are particularly marginalised, requiring specialised care and services that are not easily accessible or available. In the West Bank and Gaza, it is estimated that nearly 30,000 children suffer from disabilities, with 30% of all boys and girls requiring specialised care to ward off developmental delays.
A 2016 study by UNICEF on the situation of children with disabilities in Palestine found multiple gaps in the early detection and diagnosis of, and interventions for these childhood disabilities.
UNICEF’s Early Childhood Development Programme
Improving early detection of, and interventions for children with disabilities and developmental delays has since become a multi-sectoral priority in Palestine. To support the efforts of the Government of Palestine, UNICEF is implementing a multi-year programme to ensure that families with children with developmental delays and disabilities have access to a comprehensive package of inter-sectoral early childhood development (ECD) services and are better able to reach their optimal development. Collectively, ECD interventions promote childhood health, nutrition, education and protection and respond to children’s needs and rights in a safe, nurturing and protective environment.
The programme targets children under eight years of age, with special focus on those living with disabilities in vulnerable districts in West Bank (Hebron, Jericho, and Nablus), and all districts in the Gaza Strip. The beneficiaries include providers as well as children, their families and their communities. It aims to reach 5,000 new-borns, 7,000 children aged 0-6 years, 2,000 children with disabilities or developmental delays and 20,000 parents and community members.
Among the targeted service providers are, in collaboration with the Ministry of Health, 320 health professionals (doctors, nurses, and midwives), in collaboration with the Ministry of Education, 400 education professionals (nursery caregivers, kindergarten and first and second grade teachers), and in collaboration with the Ministry of Social Welfare, 150 social workers.
Overall, the programme has four primary objectives:
- Improve the quality of neonatal services
- Develop national capacity for early detection and interventions for disabilities and developmental delays in children
- Improve national and local capacity to provide care and support services to children with disabilities or developmental delays
- Contribute to communication for development to reduce stigma and discriminatory attitudes towards disability
Gathering Lessons Learned
As the programmes approached the final stages of implementation, KIT independently evaluated the programme, generating evidence to support project scale-up, strengthen the quality of activities, and further improve outcomes for beneficiaries.
Specifically, it aimed to generate evidence and recommendations on:
- the perceived use of the project and effect on the lives of the beneficiaries, including equity
- how well the project is embedded within national and local policies and service delivery mechanisms
- direct and indirect, intended and unintended consequences of the project and conditions for success to capitalize on, including linkages between different sectoral interventions
- gaps between policy and implementation
Apart from informing the donor, the Government of Japan, the evaluation will be used by UNICEF and its partners, including the ministries (MoH, MoE, MoSD), local implementing partner and various schools and health organizations. The evaluation aims to contribute to:
- national and sub-national planning, policy making and budgeting;
- accountability and learning, including for future evidence generating activities on ECD, such as a summative evaluation; and
- a theory of change for the ECD interventions.