Media CenterTo reduce world poverty, boost the brain power of children

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Tom Zolper
Catholic Relief Services
[email protected]


WASHINGTON, D.C., October 28, 2019 – Bi-partisan legislation introduced in the Senate and House today would help millions of children globally reach their full potential.

The Global Child Thrive Act of 2019, sponsored by Senators Roy Blunt (R-MO), Chris Coons (D-DE), Representatives Joaquin Castro (D-TX) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), would direct the administration to integrate early childhood development interventions (ECD) into U.S. foreign aid programs serving young children and their families. These initiatives would train parents and caregivers in communication, proper health and nutrition for children, play and other activities.

An estimated 43 percent of children in low- and middle-income countries – 249 million – face developmental delays due to extreme poverty, according to The Lancet. Experts now recommend providing ECD during the first years of life to ensure children living in adversity do not fall below their potential. The U.S. government does not yet integrate ECD into international programs that reach children.

The Global Child Thrive Act builds on scientific findings that children living in poverty who receive cognitive stimulation and nurturing care during their early years grow up healthier and earn 26 percent more than their peers.

“Our work at Catholic Relief Services (CRS) focuses on the most vulnerable children, helping them reach school age healthy and well-nourished, intellectually curious, socially confident and equipped with a solid foundation for life-long learning,” said Bill O’Keefe, vice president of Mission and Mobilization. “Using private funding, we integrate early childhood development interventions into our work in 20 countries worldwide, serving 1.36 million children and their families. We have seen how impactful ECD is for young children and are heartened to see the U.S. Congress take this important step on their behalf. Integrating ECD into current programming would magnify the impact of foreign aid resources – building a country’s brain power and reducing the future need for foreign assistance.”


Catholic Relief Services is the official international humanitarian agency of the Catholic community in the United States. The agency alleviates suffering and provides assistance to people in need in more than 100 countries, without regard to race, religion or nationality. CRS’ relief and development work is accomplished through programs of emergency response, HIV, health, agriculture, education, microfinance and peacebuilding. For more information, visit or and follow Catholic Relief Services on social media in English at Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube; and in Spanish at: Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.


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