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Public Policy on Childhood and Adolescence Focused on Early Childhood (Part of the "Bogotá Humana" plan)

Bogotá
Colombia

Early childhood is a unique moment to stimulate brain development by intensively using all senses, forming strong emotional bonds and ensuring optimal health and nutrition conditions. However, it is also a stage where undesirable factors, like a polluted environment, deficit in nutrition or exposure to violence, mistreatment or abuse, have irreversible effects on the future physical condition and behaviour of children. Beyond any biological condition, early childhood is a key stage to strengthen the social structure; the adoption of behavioural codes and patterns for adult life is deeply rooted in the behaviours learnt in these first years. It is then important to invest monetary and technical and human resources at this stage of the vital cycle. It has been widely proven that integrated care and higher participation of children in appropriate early stimulation programmes promote the reduction of imbalances in terms of skills, learning and social advantages, delinquency and future criminal behaviour, proper to inequitable societies, and translate into a significant reduction of social costs. This is why any action in favour of early childhood is essential to fundamentally change the conditions in a society, to reduce inequalities and to promote democracy, justice and social cohesion.

According to the 2015 National Statistical Department’s projections, Bogota has 7 878 783 inhabitants, out of which 723 156 are children younger than 5 years old, accounting for 9.2% of total population. From 2012 to 2014, the number of children between 0 and 4 years old went down due to a decrease in the fertility rate. 24% of households have at least one child younger than 5 years old, and have a life quality index of 83.9, with a Gini coefficient of 0.472. Poverty covers 17.6% of these households and 2.6% of them live in extreme poverty; 25% of this age group ranks as poor. In terms of habitable and safe environments, in 2013, 10.26% of children in early childhood lived in overcrowded houses, 70.22% lived close to risky places, like waste dumps, drug-selling spots and brothels, and 66% lived close to parks and green areas (although in many cases they were not properly maintained).

Pillar 1 of the Bogotá Humana Plan reads “A city that reduces segregation and discrimination: The human being at the centre of development concerns", thus defining the integrated care for early childhood as one of the government priorities. Section 7 highlights the Guarantee for the Integrated Development of Early Childhood "Ser feliz, creciendo feliz" (“Be happy growing happy”) strategic, cross-sector and priority programme that brings together the whole of the District Administration, led by the District Secretariat for Social Integration (SDIS), to take coordinated institutional actions and ensure qualified care for this population, leverage its development, provide significant pedagogical experiences, access to culture, sports and recreation, promote a healthy life, healthy diet, safe and protecting environments, and build sensitive and friendly spaces in the urban and rural areas within the municipality.

This Policy is focused on Integrated Protection, consisting of the same pillars it covers (Pillar 1: children and adolescents in full citizenship, Pillar 2: Bogota builds the city with children and adolescents, Pillar 3: governance for the quality of life in childhood and adolescence), recognizing children and adolescents as holders of rights, guaranteeing the assertion of such rights, preventing any situation that may threaten or violate the exercise of such rights, and taking actions to effectively and immediately re-establish them, when necessary.