Children Under 5 THRIVE in East Africa

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THRIVE’s work in early childhood development has changed the way parents and their communities value young children. That work will continue through THRIVE II.

With support from the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, the THRIVE project in Tanzania, Kenya and Malawi helps children from birth to age 5 receive high-quality services and support so they can reach their potential.

Many children are particularly vulnerable at this critical period because of poverty and HIV. THRIVE helps them get proper health care and nutrition for their bodies—and their minds.

THRIVE’s numbers are encouraging. Baseline and endline surveys with more than 900 caregivers clearly show increases in parenting best practices and developmental milestones for children under 5 during the program’s 3 years, 2012 to 2015. 

  • Changes in parenting practices: 19% increase number of caregivers who practiced positive discipline practices and a 54% increase in the number of children who played with homemade toys.
  • Improvements in health and nutrition: Only 38% of children were eating a diet that included 4 out of 7 essential food groups at the start of the program; this increased to 61% were at the end of the program period. Health education and outreach resulted in a 40% increase in the number of caregivers who sought health services for their children.
  • Impact on early childhood development: Children under 5 were assessed at the beginning and end of the program for critical development milestones in 6 categories. Each category showed a high final percentage—83% to 97%—of children meeting milestones for their age:
  • gross motor
  • fine motor
  • receptive language
  • expressive language
  • cognitive
  • social-emotional
Early childhood development can level the playing field for disadvantaged children by stimulating physical, cognitive and socio-emotional maturity, which contributes to educational and economic success later in life. Photo by Philip Laubner/CRS
With new knowledge and materials, CRS partners trained 3,752 community-based volunteers to educate 19,208 caregivers of children under 5. Photo by Sara A. Fajardo/CRS
Community-based volunteers provided regular home visits to more than 17,000 households—a total of 177,706 home visits in year 3. Photo by Philip Laubner/CRS
THRIVE constructed 45 early childhood development spaces. During THRIVE’s final year, 8,071 children visited one of Kenya’s centers and 2,134 children were attending in Tanzania at least once per month. Photo by Philip Laubner/CRS
THRIVE Malawi improved 152 community-based care centers, and ensured that the 11,267 children ages 3 to 5 that were enrolled attended regularly. Photo by Sara A. Fajardo/CRS
Toys stimulate young minds. THRIVE serves parents by showing them the importance of toys, and helping them create homemade toys. By the end of THRIVE, 77% of children were playing with locally made toys. Photo by Philip Laubner/CRS
The impact of food and nutrition support is evident in the minimum dietary diversity scores for children ages 6 to 36 months which significantly increased in all three countries. Photo by Philip Laubner/CRS
In THRIVE’s final year, 3,824 parents and caregivers were involved in support groups.  In Tanzania, 1,555 were involved in Savings and Internal Lending Communities, which can improve their financial future. Photo by Sara A. Fajardo/CRS
More than 10,000 children, parents and caregivers benefited from one of 131 Child Health Days in remote parts of Kenya and Malawi. Photo by Sara A. Fajardo/CRS
Additional Resources:

Find out more about THRIVE and how cans, buttons and boxes are building brains.

Take a look at toys made through CRS’ THRIVE program in this photo gallery.

Explore a manual that teaches parents about early childhood development and how to become toy makers in their homes.

Read about our work supporting mothers and their mental health through THRIVE in Kenya, Malawi and Tanzania.