Early Childhood Development

Five Years of Amazing Results

Discover how the integrated Early Childhood Development (ECD) program in Zambia has reached nearly 10,000 children, working through local volunteers to empower and encourage caregivers.

Download the full report

Download the report summary

Download the evaluation summary

Read the May 24 press release


Program Background

Episcopal Relief & Development and our partner the Zambia Anglican Council launched an integrated Early Childhood Development (ECD) program in 2012 for families affected by HIV/AIDS.  Currently serving nearly 10,000 children under five and their parents or other primary caregivers, this program was started with a $350,000, two-year grant from The Conrad N. Hilton Foundation as part of their Children Affected by HIV and AIDS initiative.  Based on early signs of success, Episcopal Relief & Development was then awarded a three-year, $1 million grant from the Foundation, to strengthen the program and expand it to other rural areas of Zambia during 2014-2016.  The Hilton Foundation grants are matched 1:1 by Episcopal Relief & Development with other funds, as required by the Foundation.

In 2014, our partner in Kenya, Anglican Development Services-Nyanza (ADS-Nyanza) began incorporating ECD into their Mother2Mother Support Groups, part of their integrated empowerment program. This program specifically reaches out to women who are HIV-positive with children up to 18 months old.

The first years of life are a critical period for cognitive, psychosocial and physical development.  In the context of HIV/AIDS, many children are cared for by an ill parent; others are being raised by older siblings, grandparents, relatives, or neighbors – increasing the stresses already experienced by families living in poverty and putting young children at greater risk.

The ECD program addresses the needs of young children while equipping their caregivers and communities to support their healthy development.  It uses program tools from the Essential Package: Holistically Addressing the Needs of Young Vulnerable Children and Their Caregivers Affected by HIV and AIDS. Our vision is organized communities, strengthened families, empowered caregivers and children who are thriving. 


ECD Figure and Quotes

The program is based in churches and schools that serve as Early Childhood Development (ECD) Centers.  The ECD program leverages the assets of Episcopal and Anglican churches nationally and locally, with a dynamic network of local leaders and volunteers focusing on young children’s cognitive, psychosocial and physical development.  

The success of the program depends on four key elements:

  • Volunteers: the development of an effective corps of volunteers
  • Parenting Practices: improved child development through parenting practices to promote bonding and stimulate early learning
  • Capacity: parents’ increased capacities to meet children’s needs
  • Community Ownership: community ownership of Early Childhood Development and social change 

Trained volunteers facilitate caregiver support and learning groups, make monthly home visits and provide referrals to needed services. To ensure families have the resources they need to raise children who will thrive, the program addresses health, nutrition and food security, as well as livelihoods strengthening. 

Participating communities have enthusiastically engaged with the program, with dedicated volunteers carrying out the activities and collaborating organizations providing additional services.  

Here are some of the results:

  • Caregivers increased time with their children, spending 50% more time than parents in the control group
  • Caregiver-child interactions to build thinking, language and motor skills jumped from under 50% to 80%
  • Mosquito net use expanded from 56% to 86% and immunization rates increased from 58% to 96% 
  • The percentage of children eating protein at least once a day grew by 77%
  • In Savings & Loan Groups, 60% of funds were invested in small businesses and 25% in children's health and education

In the video below we follow Catherine, a volunteer or Lead Promoter in Zambia, as she conducts home visits and talks about her role in the Early Childhood Development program.