Strengthening Nurturing Care in Humanitarian Response Series

September 27, 2023 - November 9, 2023

The Global Health Cluster is collaborating with the Child Health Task Force, Inter-agency Network for Education in Emergencies, and other partners to incorporate the Nurturing Care Framework into the health sector contribution to humanitarian responses for children, caregivers, and families. Learning from leading scientists and practitioners, join us to discover evidence-based, equitable, and comprehensive early childhood development programs that enhance outcomes for young children in humanitarian crises. Don't miss this opportunity to learn to create quality responses sensitive to their needs and improve holistic support to children in emergencies.

Session 1:  27 September | 3pm CET/9am EST: The science behind caring for young children and caregivers: Strengthening Nurturing Care approaches to achieve better health outcomes

This webinar, moderated by Ayesha Kadir, Senior Humanitarian Health Advisor Save the Children International and co-chair of the Emergencies subgroup of the CHTF, discussed leveraging science to support children and families in humanitarian contexts through nurturing care approaches.


  • James Cairns, from the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University, presented the science of early child development, explaining how experiences shape brain architecture from a young age. He emphasized that development does not stop in crises and stressed the importance of responsive relationships, reducing stress, and building skills.
  • Sheila Manji, an Early Childhood Development Specialist from the WHO, then built on this by introducing the Nurturing Care Framework. She explained the five components of nurturing care - health, nutrition, safety, early learning, and responsive caregiving - and how these must be supported through enabling environments. She provided examples of how nurturing care can be implemented in acute and protracted humanitarian crises.

There was discussion about bringing concepts of early child development to humanitarian staff and using technology to support caregivers. Both presenters emphasized that nurturing care is a holistic approach requiring cross-sector collaboration and an understanding of child development science. They stressed that even in crises, biology seeks adaptation, and small positive interactions can promote resilience.

Session 2: 18 October | 3pm CET /9am EST: Programming in action: Nurturing Care integrated into national health systems

Moderated by Maria Benavides, Early Childhood Development Coordinator at - Inter-agency Network for Education in Emergencies, this webinar focused on sharing experiences of successfully integrating nurturing care approaches into national health systems and responses in humanitarian settings.

Presenters discussed interventions in Myanmar, Syria, Colombia, Ethiopia, and Afghanistan, where early childhood development (ECD) was integrated into primary healthcare services for young children and families affected by crises or emergencies.


  • Sanjay Kumar Das, a public health nutritionist from Myanmar, shared experiences that showed how integrating ECD into nutrition centres reduced developmental delays and strengthened caregivers' mental health.
  • Dr. Dalal Alhamwy, the Program Coordinator with Aga Khan Health Services in Syria, explained that in Syria, the focus was on training health staff to provide comprehensive services, ensuring most children and caregivers received the necessary support. Their strategy incorporated developmental screening tools, play sessions, counselling, and the creation of community support groups.
  • César Eduardo Luna Vivas, ECD Consultant for UNICEF, described how Colombia adapted services for migrant children through child-friendly spaces, nutrition support, and positive parenting.
  • Nesibu Agonafir, Senior Team Leader at PATH, pointed to Ethiopia's approach of integrating ECD and maternal mental health screening into primary care.
  • Melanie Galvin, Chief of Nutrition in Afghanistan, provided context on Afghanistan's large scale ECD activities through UNICEF like child friendly spaces and nutrition support despite lack of a national ECD strategy.
  • Ayesha Kadir, co-chair of the CHTF's Emergencies subgroup, facilitated a discussion on tools used for screening, engaging caregivers, and training health workers in ECD provision in emergencies.

Session 3: 20 November | 2pm CET /8am EST: Discussion with Health Cluster Coordinators: Institutionalizing Nurturing Care in humanitarian health interventions

Moderated by Linda Doull, Global Health Cluster Coordinator, this final webinar in the Strengthening Nurturing Care in Humanitarian Response series focused on further institutionalizing nurturing care in humanitarian health interventions.


  • Ayesha Kadir, Senior Humanitarian Health Advisor at Save the Children International and co-chair of the Emergencies subgroup of the CHTF, provided a summary of the key points from the two previous webinars. She discussed the impact of stress on early child development, focusing on the critical period before birth to age 3, and then presented the nurturing care framework, emphasizing components like good health, nutrition, safety, responsive caregiving, and early learning opportunities. Ayesha highlighted the framework's role in addressing social determinants to save children's lives during emergencies.
  • Ron Pouwels, Child Protection AoR, UNICEF, highlighted the interconnected nature of children's rights outlined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child, emphasizing how crises expose children to violence and separation. He discussed the child protection sector's role in supporting early childhood development, ensuring safety, promoting responsive caregiving, and building resilience. Ron cited examples of child protection activities contributing to ECD, referenced Child Protection Minimum Standards, and emphasized coordination with health and nutrition for a comprehensive nurturing care approach.
  • Amir Yarparvar of UNICEF Lebanon stressed the significance of nutrition and caregiving for healthy brain development in children. He introduced Lebanon's Rising initiative, which employs community health workers and digital platforms to address malnutrition and developmental delays. The initiative involves screening, milestone tracking, and training frontline workers in the nurturing care framework. Amir emphasized institutionalizing milestone screening and spoke of an upcoming nutrition and ECD survey in Lebanon to provide updated evidence and inform future programming and policies.
  • Amaah Penn, Health Cluster Coordinator in Ukraine, noted the absence of specific early childhood development (ECD) mentions in humanitarian response plans. He emphasized the importance of integrating ECD into needs assessments, strategic planning, and emergency response designs. He highlighted community-based programming, leveraging existing local capacities, and outlined challenges such as differing priorities, costs, and cultural nuances. Penn stressed the need for advocacy to prioritize ECD, analyzing sector work for context-specific interventions, and promoting coordination through area-based approaches. He called for strategic advocacy, cross-sector analysis, and context-specific definitions of minimum service standards and indicators for ECD.

Overall, the discussion reinforced the need for a greater understanding of current ECD work, strengthened collaboration, and institutionalized ECD within strategic planning, programming, and monitoring in humanitarian health responses.