Supported by Foreign Affairs, Trade an​​d Development Canada

Enhancing ‘Babycare’ Enterprises through Social Franchising in Kenya

This two-year project is sponsored un​der the Institutional Partnerships for Human Development initiative and is supported by the Programme for Advancing Human Development in Asia and Africa. 

The overall objective is to develop and test an innovative early ​human development model for children aged 0-3 years in the urban informal settlement of Mlolongo, Nairobi, Kenya that combines innovative intervention with outcome-based research

The project provides intensive training of the caregivers in early child development; mentoring and continuous support to the babycare centres through trained social workers; training of the babycare owners in business development; and some limited provision of supplies, equipment and furniture. In return, the babycare owners and caregivers became highly motivated to do their best in improving the care for the small children despite the challenging environment of the urban slum where the centres are located.

The children are brought by their parents early in the morning and picked up late in the evening.  Through increased knowledge and skills of the care givers, the children are better taken care off in terms of play and stimulation, hygiene and nutrition, and the indoor environment of the often small and poorly ventilated care centres has significantly improved. A big challenge remains the non-existence of outdoor space and the poor environment outside the houses that endanger the health and safety of the children.

The project is in its final implementation cycle. The findings, lessons learned and good practices will be shared within AKDN and with the local community, the government and other key stakeholders.

​Project Team:

  • Principal Investigator: Prof Robert Armstrong

  • Co-Investigators: Ripudam Minhas, Michaela Mantel, Aisha Yousafzai, Vittorio Sereni

  • Community-based activities and local project coordination: Racheal Nduku​

Early Literacy Intervention in Pakistan

To support early literacy development in two locations in Pakistan (Karachi and Gilgit-Baltistan), this project is using curricular development as part of the project to train 12 teachers (in the school-based program) and 36 parents (in home intervention programs) to support children’s literacy development

The content of the training includes training in content and pedagogy of literacy development as well as instruction in the science of early child development.

The impact of the training is being assessed empirically using a quasi-experimental design. A second layer of data were ​collected using qualitative information of teachers and parents in the intervention group about their early literacy beliefs and practices before and after their intervention.

Principle Investigator: Dr Almina Pardhan​

​Research Using the Early Development Instrument in Pakistan

This study is assessing the school readiness and developmental health status of pre-primary and class I students of government-run schools in Karachi, Pakistan, and the associated risk factors. The instrument for the study is the Early Development Instrument developed and validated in Canada—and now used in a number of countries around the world.

The EDI is a teacher completed checklist which contains 104 items grouped into five domains: physical health & well-being, emotional maturity, social competence, language & cognitive development, and general knowledge & communication​. The tool is designed to identify population based vulnerability by assessing at risk children at the group level.

​This research study has been undertaken in partnership with the Human Early Learning Partnership, University of British Columbia. The study is led by Dr Ghazala Rafique, Director, Human Development Programme, Aga Khan University and is being implemented in collaboration with the Reforms Support Unit, Education and Literacy Department, Government of Sindh in 500 public schools in Karachi.​

Building the Capacity of Faculty and Other Key Stakeholders in Early Human Development

This project comprises three main activities:

  1. evaluation of the AKDN Science of ECD Phase 1 initiatives;

  2. joint design and delivery of a blended learning course by AKU and University of Toronto using the SECD online resource; and

  3. development and pilot of short SECD modules in AKDN countries.

Research to Better Inform Early Human Development Policies and Programs in Tanzania – Tuwaendeleze Watoto Wetu

This research comprises the following main activities:

  1. literature review mapping key issues and dimensions of ECE;

  2. landscaping study on existing ECE interventions, training, capacities and lessons learned;

  3. communication and dissemination activities on the basis of knowledge products developed by the project; and

  4. development of a database to inform the creation of online resources.

  5. visit the website here​.

Advancing institutions and knowledge for improved early human development

Conrad N. Hilton Foundation Grant

​Young children affected by HIV and AIDS face many developmental challenges. They often do not receive the care and opportunities needed for early learning. Malnutrition, poor health, and inadequate caregiving combine to inhibit healthy psychosocial and cognitive development, with potentially negative long-term consequences, including learning difficulties and school drop-out. Yet with programmes that support them and their families in the critical early years, these children can thrive and develop optimally.

Committed to improving the quality of life for vulnerable children, the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation is funding community-based programmes that serve the needs of these children in five African countries: Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania, and Zambia. This grant to IHD (through Aga Khan Foundation-USA) has two central goals.

The first is to enhance the capacity of families and strengthen community-based organizations to better meet the developmental needs of children affected by HIV and AIDS. Through this grant IHD is providing education and training in the Science of Early Child Development​ to professionals from community-based entities providing services for children in the five countries.

​The second goal is to support, within Aga Khan University, the kind of capacity-building necessary for IHD to make sustained contributions to the improvement of Early Child Development services in the region through research and the preparation of ECD prof​essionals at the advanced diploma and master’s levels. Under the second goal, a faculty member in Pediatrics is being funded partially to complete a PhD and Fellowship in Developmental Pediatrics at the University of Toronto to fill an important expertise need within the Medical College, Kenya. Additionally one post-doctoral fellow and two masters-level graduate assistants are part of the research team funded to support research with relevance for the Foundation’s community-based programmes in the five countries.​​​​​​​​​

Newborn “Kit” to Improve Survival and Impact Developmental Outcomes of Children in Rural Kenya

In Kenya, neonatal mortality rates are high (26 per 1000 live births) and have only minimally decreased over the last decade. Furthermore, the same insults that cause most newborn deaths, namely infection and complications of preterm birth and low birthweight, can also affect neurodevelopment. 

Each year, more than 200 million children under the age of 5 years, almost all in low- and middle-income countries, do not achieve their developmental potential. Interventions are urgently needed to reduce neonatal mortality, minimize risk factors for impaired development and promote cognitive development. 

This research project, which uses a cluster randomized controlled design, aims to evaluate the impact of delivering an integrated neonatal toolkit and/or a newborn developmental stimulation package to pregnant women during their third trimester of pregnancy and provide education on how to use each intervention compared to the current standard of care in Kwale County, Coast Province, Kenya. 

The newborn toolkit, which will be distributed by community health workers, comprises a clean delivery kit (sterile blade, cord clamp, clean plastic sheet, surgical gloves and hand soap), sunflower oil emollient, chlorhexidine, ThermoSpotTM, Mylar infant sleeve, and a reusable instant heat pack. Community health workers will be provided with a standard portable hand-held battery operated scale. 

Project field staff were selected from the same community and were given training on how to use the toolkits. Training support was provided by faculty from SickKids Hospital and  University of Toronto, Canada.​


Data collectors were provided with motorbikes to collect health information from mothers at their home.

Orientation before community entry for data collection.​

The newborn developmental stimulation program will focus on teaching three key messages to enhance the caregivers’ current caregiving practices including, making eye contact and talking to children, responsive feeding and caregiving, and singing songs, including those with gentle touch. The primary outcome measure is neurodevelopment at 12 months of age as measured by the Protocol for Child Monitoring – Infant/Toddler version (PCM-IT). Secondary outcomes include neonatal mortality, newborn infection, hypothermia, identification of LBW, health-facility referral, and compliance.​

Principal Investigators: 

  • Dr. Shaun K. Morris, The Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto, Canada

  • Prof. Robert Armstrong, Faculty of Health Sciences, Aga Khan University, Nairobi, Kenya

AKU Co-Investigators:

  • Dr. Amyn Lakhani, Faculty of Health Sciences, Aga Khan University, Mombasa, Kenya

  • Prof. William Macharia​​, Faculty of Health Sciences, Aga Khan University, Nairobi, Kenya​


IHD's Penny ​Holding and film producer ​Murad Rayani have carried out monitoring and evaluation of the UNICEF Care For Child Development initiative in Mali. Through a series of cinematographic portraits, they illustrate the activities undertaken and give life to the way in which communities and children have responded to the interv​entions. Read m​ore.​​


Prof Winnie Mucherah, PhD​

Car​negie African Diaspora Fellow

​Prof Mucherah was in our office from ​May 11 to June 26, 2015.  She presented a colloqui​​um series on research, engaged with our ongoing research and worked with our interns.  IHD is very grateful to the Carnegie African Diaspora Fellowship Programme for making her visit possible.

  • ​​​​​Read more about Winnie Mucherah and the programme here.​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

  • For a selected list of Prof Mucherah's research articles, click h​ere​​.​​​

  • The presentations from the Colloquium Series on R​esearch can be downloaded here​.​​​