BY LORETTA BRIGIDIA MANELE
SOLOMON Islands at 33 percent has the highest childhood stunting rate in the Pacific with significant disparities between rural and urban areas and between rich and poor households.
According to UNICEF (United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund), increasing access to improved water and sanitation also remains a key challenge in the country, particularly in the rural areas where only 30 percent of households have access to improved sanitation facilities.
Besides stunting, Solomon Islands at 54 percent accounts for the highest rate of open defecation in the Pacific.
As for early childhood education, the net enrolment is also poor, at 39 percent.
UNICEF expressed that local communities mainly run kindergartens but only about 50 percent of early childhood centres are formally registered in the country.
Moreover, as stated, while there are legal provisions, children still suffer from violence, exploitation, abuse and neglect and these are experienced in homes, schools and communities.
“72 percent of parents reported having used violence or physical discipline against children in their households,” said UNICEF.
Also stressed by the United Nations organization is that investments in young children are necessary if Solomon Islands is to secure inclusive and sustainable national development.
UNICEF emphasized that ECD (Early Childhood Development) investments are one of the most cost-effective strategies for healthier and more productive populations with potential returns that outweigh costs.
“It is vital to invest earlier rather than later, because the development of brain architecture in the early years is the foundation of future learning behaviour and health,” said UNICEF.