Migration phenomena are studied from different areas, but it is necessary to deepen the conversation for early childhood. What started to happen in Latin America a few years ago between migration flows and young children? What policies should be generated to protect the development of migrant children? These questions were addressed at the second workshop of the Community of Practice in Early Childhood Development (ECD), a network led by the Early Childhood Development (ECD) Innovation Fund.
What is the migration landscape for early childhood in the region?
During the workshop, Felipe Muñoz, Head of the IDB’s Migration Unit, offered a diagnostic exposing detailed information that helps to understand the situation of migrant children from 0 to 5 years old and their families in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC).
- Six years ago, an increase in intra-regional migratory flows began, for which countries were not prepared. This refers not only to movements from Venezuela (80% of the 6.8 million Venezuelans who have left are located in LAC countries), but also from Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, Jamaica, Mexico, Haiti, among others.
- In many of these flows, the parents emigrated first in an attempt to seek stability, and a process of feminization and family reunification is currently being observed: at this point, children appear as part of the migratory process. ”According to the UN Population Division, in 2020 the number of migrant children aged 0-4 years in LAC is almost 2% of the total number of resident children of these ages in the entire region. And, of the entire migrant population, children aged 0-4 years is 6.2%,” Muñoz stated.
- The offer of ECD services for migrant children is limited: “We have found differences on average of almost 15 percentage points between enrollment or access to certain preschool care services between migrants and non-migrants. This also generates a series of difficulties for the socioemotional development of children and increases cases of xenophobia and discrimination. In addition, we observe processes of language barriers that are common, for example, for Central Americans in Belize, some indigenous populations, or Haitian children in Chile,” explained Muñoz.
- Migrant parents help the children who stay in their countries through remittances, but their emotional bonds are affected. There are results that show positive effects on children whose households receive remittances. For example, in Ecuador there are improvements in nutritional status in the short term (weight-for-age). In Honduras, Guatemala and Mexico there is a lower probability (almost 4%) of mortality in the first year of life compared to children who do not receive remittances. However, the remittance story has another side of the coin that is not positive: children in these households suffer separation from parents and caregivers, there is a disruption in emotional ties, and this impacts the children’s development. We observe the phenomenon of the skipped generation —children living with caregivers or with their grandparents—, in which, despite all the effort and love offered, there are deficiencies in the developmental processes. The ECD Innovation Fund has an interesting project in El Salvador that addresses this topic.
In the face of these challenges, the panelists agree that the following keys can improve the lives and development of migrant children between the ages of 0 and 5.
- Review regulatory frameworks, policies and mechanisms that guarantee the rights and well-being of early childhood in countries of origin, transit, and destination. Based on these reviews, generate bilateral and regional agreements.
- Improve sources of information on migration and childhood to identify early childhood, understand needs, the situation, make decisions and measure results.
- Articulate the offer of services and attention to migrant and mobile early childhood, among the entities of the States, with civil society organizations, academia and cooperation agencies.
- Promote mental and socioemotional health strategies for both early childhood children and their caregivers.
- Strengthen protective spaces for refugee and migrant children that allow them to foster quality interactions with their caregivers, learning opportunities, access to educational materials and/or provide them with a safe place to stay while their parents or caregivers are working, on the street, or trying to regularize their immigration status.
- Increase access to quality educational materials for families and raise awareness of the importance of early years and quality interactions. In situations where possible, leverage the use of technology for this purpose.
The meeting from which these reflections were extracted was titled “Caring for Early Childhood Migrants: Challenges, Opportunities and Lessons Learned” and was held as part of the activities celebrating the 5th anniversary of the ECD Innovation Fund. It included presentations by Felipe Muñoz, Head of the IDB Migration Unit; Eva Fernández, Manager of Early Childhood and Social Investment at FEMSA Foundation; Belén Michel Torino, from the ECD Innovation Fund; Brenda Campos, Senior Director of Social Impact at Sesame Workshop in Latin America; Paula Fernanda Rivero Díaz, National Officer for Prevention, Demobilization and Reintegration at the International Organization for Migration (IOM); and Nancy Ramírez, Director of Policy Advocacy at Save the Children Mexico.
Do you want to know more? The ECD Innovation Fund has interesting projects for migrant children in Colombia, El Salvador and Guatemala. Discover them at the Results Dashboard and follow the conversation through the hashtag #ECDHubLAC.
The Early Childhood Development (ECD) Innovation Fund is a partnership to finance, design, implement and evaluate innovative and scalable solutions to improve the lives of children in Latin America and the Caribbean. The Fund is coordinated and managed by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), in partnership with FEMSA Foundation, Maria Cecilia Souto Vidigal Foundation, Open Society Foundations, and Porticus, with support from the Bernard Van Leer Foundation.
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