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A good start for a better life

With the right care and stimulation in babies’ first few years they have the best chance to reach their full potential. 24-year old Ms Der, who lives in Kon Tum in the Central Highland in Vietnam, is included in our global program with UNICEF and knows how to give her children this lifetime opportunity.

A mother from an ethnic minority plays with her young child at her home in the Pleiku province in the central highlands of Vietnam.

Ms Der is a young woman with an intelligent look. She and her husband are farmers and live in a small house together with their two children, a 5-year son called Muuh, and a 10-month son called Khan. Ms Der’s parents also live with them.

Muuh is enrolled in preschool and he really enjoys it. The preschool is supported by H&M Foundation through our program with UNICEF. Ms Der visits the preschool sometimes and is glad to see her son enjoying singing songs and playing with others. Even though these activities can look trivial and childish, they are very important for a child’s development. Children that are in a positive and stimulating environment during this sensitive time of the early years has a significant increased ability to succeed and achieve later in life. That is why H&M Foundation and UNICEF want caregivers to understand how important it is to provide love, protection, nutrition and stimulation to the youngest.

The province where Ms Der and her family lives is home of many vulnerable ethnic minority groups. Ms Der herself belongs to the Ba Na minority. The province also has very poor child survival and development indicators. As many as 90% of the young parents here also does not know how to apply early learning and stimulation of young children.

“I learned that breastfeeding is very important, my youngest child is not sick as often as my older child was.”

Ms Der, Kon Tum in Vietnam

Previously, Ms Der was not aware of how crucial these first years was, but recently learnt how important it is to spend time to play, smile, and talk to her sons to promote early stimulation and build their brain development. Thanks to the support from H&M Foundation, UNICEF Vietnam is rolling out a holistic parenting training that will fill in the knowledge and skills gaps of mothers like Ms Der on various childcare, education and protection aspects.

Breastfeeding is another area where the figures are low in Vietnam. Breastfeeding is vital to a child’s lifelong health, and reduces costs for health facilities, families, and governments. Infants are at greater risk of death due to diarrhoea and other infections when they are only partially breastfed or not breastfed at all. Breastfeeding also improves IQ, school readiness and attendance, and is associated with higher income in adult life.

Many parents are not aware of this important factor. UNICEF therefore invests in information to parents and Ms Der can witness on the impact of knowledge. From the nurse at the health center she learned about the importance of breastfeeding. This meant a drastic health improvement for her youngest son.

“I learned that breastfeeding is very important, my youngest child is not sick as often as my older child was, now when I have breastfed for the first six months.”