Zimbabwe: UNICEF Zimbabwe is inviting proposals from individual international consultants to provide support in Early Childhood Development

Organization: UN Children’s Fund
Country: Zimbabwe
Closing date: 12 Dec 2017

UNICEF works in 190 countries and territories to protect the rights of every child. UNICEF has spent 70 years working to improve the lives of children and their families. Defending children’s rights throughout their lives requires a global presence, aiming to produce results and understand their effects. UNICEF believes all children have a right to survive, thrive and fulfill their potential – to the benefit of a better world.

Type of contract: Individual Consultancy

Duration: 6 months

1. Background

The increase in teenage pregnancies predisposes more adolescents and their children at risk of medical, psychological, developmental, and social problems. Poverty, lower educational level, and inadequate family support seem to contribute to a lack of adequate prenatal care, which may account for the majority of negative psychological and development outcomes for both the adolescent mother and her child. Early motherhood is generally associated with depression, poorer educational outcomes and social- economic difficulties including failure to complete formal education and comprehensive age-appropriate sexuality education; intimate partner violence, which impacts on risk and health-seeking behavior, inadequate access to good-quality sexual and reproductive health information, commodities and services, at times due to age of consent to access services. The baby of the teenage mother also faces some risks such as still birth, under 1 mortality, low birth weight. These risks increase with younger maternal age. Support programs to the young mothers, including, early childhood development (ECD) programs, have been found to be effective to improve parental mood when given in group and home visitation settings, as well as on the young infant.

Psychosocial factors such as the lack of infant stimulation, poor mother-child interaction, and maternal depression can inhibit feeding and growth even when food supplements are provided.[i] These factors are very often present in vulnerable mothers such as teenage mothers. Lack of social support from families and friends and the burden of childcare combined with high poverty and harsh living situations increase the vulnerabilities of these mothers. There is now a strong evidence base to show that programs that combine food supplementation with psychosocial support programs, enhance infant stimulation, improve mother-child interaction, and improve both physical and intellectual growth in infants to a greater degree than nutrition interventions alone, particularly among the poorest and most malnourished children.[ii] These effects are enduring in the long term. They improve maternal depression when delivered in the form of home visits and mother to mother groups support.[iii] Such programs can be tailored to the differing special needs of both adolescent mothers and gender based violence survivors to focus on attachment problems with the baby and the issues of rejection and stigmatization that occur after GBV.

Investments in early education, maternal-child attachment and nurturance, and more creative nutrition initiatives are critical to help break the cycle of poverty. Even the slightest forms of malnutrition can affect a young child’s development potential. WHO recommends advocates combining psychosocial and nutritional programming in food shortage situations in order to address the physical, emotional, and intellectual developmental needs of the child and to enhance maternal wellbeing.[iv] The IASC Guidelines on mental health and psychosocial support in emergencies also recommend the integration of psychosocial issues into nutritional support.

As at times teenage pregnancy is as a result of a child protection concern, and may lead to early marriages which pose additional risk to the young girls, there is a need to be able to identify such girls early and provide appropriate psychosocial support to them as well as referral to protection services if needed, as well as linking them with existing mother to mother support groups.

In response to the increased malnutrition induced by El Niño in Zimbabwe, UNICEF with funding support from Department for International Development (DFID), implemented a multi-sectoral humanitarian program that brought together Nutrition, WASH, HIV, Child Protection, and communication interventions in 10 districts during October 2016-October 2017.

This intervention was informed by the March 2016 CPRA which found that child protection concerns were being triggered and exacerbated as a result of chronic shortages of food and cash, including increased teenage pregnancies, child marriages, psychological distress and cases of unaccompanied and separated children (UASC) as primary care givers leave in search of job opportunities. As communities struggled to cope with the effects of the El Niño induced drought, a variety of interconnected socio-economic risks and vulnerabilities are emerging. These include lack of access to adequate food (dietary intake), health (services and status) and care (adequate maternal and childcare practices). Most vulnerable households are resorting to negative coping strategies including, selling of assets, withdrawal of children from school, marrying off children and transactional sex which has led to increased teenage pregnancies in target districts.

During the course of this program, among other outcomes, in the 10 districts, 5,837 young mothers have been reached with information on parenting and child protection messages mainly using the mother to mother support groups established for Infant and Young Child Feeding Programs, at least one staff from 160 health centres including those that have waiting mother shelters, have been trained on identification for need of and provision of psychosocial support so that vulnerable caregivers are supported to care for their children more effectively to support nutrition outcomes. Also, young mothers have been referred to the community structures to be included in the M2M support groups to provide them the social support and knowledge regarding care of their babies. It is expected that the lessons learned from this intervention will feed into the development of an ECD strategy and intervention for UNICEF Zimbabwe, and a more refined approach will be developed in the new DfID funded program covering 15 new districts, in addition to the existing 10.

2. Rationale

The first three years of life are crucial for a child’s development where the child’s brain grows and develops the fastest. The development of the child and his/her brain depend on a number of factors including developing a secure attachment with a primary caregiver, early stimulation, as well as getting proper nutritious food. If parents are supported to better care for their children through support groups and home visitations by trained personnel the developmental outcomes for both the parents, especially the mothers as well as the children are positive. Parenting programs that focus on multiple outcomes also are shown to provide social support for vulnerable women and children in a non-stigmatising manner. Evidence shows that combined programs (such as those that are addressing overall parenting and nutrition programs) yield positive developmental outcomes for children both in the short and long run.

UNICEF would like to address malnutrition while building on the lessons learnt from the multisectoral humanitarian program that was implemented in 10 districts. Support of an Early Childhood Development Consultant is critical in building on the lessons learned and developing an integrated strategy and implementation plan for promoting early years interventions taking care of the emergency response activities.

The multi-sectoral and holistic approach to integrating HIV, WASH, education and child protection issues in nutrition programs with a focus on integrated early childhood development (ECD) is also expected to result in better outcomes in adolescence, in adulthood and social and financials gains for the country in the long run. As the UNICEF Zimbabwe Office does not have capacity on ECD at the moment, there is a need to recruit an expert in integrated ECD programming who can support the office to achieve the above mentioned goal of integration of ECD (and other sectors) in the existing programming with a focus on the nutrition program, especially in the mother to mother (M2M) support groups and the role of the community level workers such as the village health workers (VHW).

3. Objective (s)

The Early Childhood Consultant will develop an integrated ECD (iECD) strategy and intervention for UNICEF Zimbabwe based on the lessons learnt from the current interventions especially from the multisectoral humanitarian project through linking health, nutrition, child protection, communication, and education programs with a focus on mother to mother support groups and role of VHW and other community structures.

4. Methodology & Expected Output

The Early Childhood Consultant will closely work with the Ministry of Health and Child Care, Ministry of Public Services, Labour and Social Welfare, and implementing CSO partners. The Early Childhood Development Consultant will support the development of a strategy and strengthen the implementation of the M2M support groups by supporting the inter-sectoral ECD working group in UNICEF.

5. Major Tasks, Deliverables & Timeframe

Major Task


Time Frame



Revise the mother to mother support group guidelines with a focus on integration of ECD messages (attachment parenting, positive disciple, early stimulation, CP issues and education)

Revised IYCF and mother to mother support group programs

By end January 2018

To be paid monthly based on submission of the deliverables


Enhance the training programs (the curriculum and training material) for VHW and other relevant community cadres to effectively train and supervise the volunteer mothers running M2M support groups

Revised training curriculum and material

End February 2018

To be paid monthly based on submission of the deliverables


Provide training of trainers to selected Government and NGO staff who will be delivering the program intervention involving mother to mother support groups set up for IYCF whose TOR will be expanded.

Training reports

By March – April 2018

To be paid monthly based on submission of the deliverables


Review and critically analyse, for comprehensiveness and adequacy, the existing experience of UNICEF Zimbabwe in ECD programming (parenting programs (child protection), nutrition programs focusing on IYCFP and mother to mother support groups, behavior and social norms change strategies employed through C4D interventions with an ECD lens as etc.)

Report with review of the programs and recommendations for improving integration across the country programme

By end May 2018

To be paid monthly based on submission of the deliverables


Carry out a mapping of ECD interventions by external partners in Zimbabwe

Mapping report with recommendations

By end May 2018

To be paid monthly based on submission of the deliverables


Develop a Theory of Change, strategy and implementation plan for UNICEF Zimbabwe on ECD integration in its programs

Strategy and implementation plan

By 10 July 2018

To be paid monthly based on submission of the deliverables

6. Timeframe

Early Childhood Development Consultant contract will be for the duration of 6 months from 15 January 2018 until 15 July 2018.

7. Consultancy Requirements

The Individual consultant should have at least 5 years of field experience in Early Childhood Development, especially in development context. He/she should also have an advanced university degree in Social Science, Early Childhood Education, Human Development and Family Studies, Social Work, or any relevant field.

Specifically the individual should possess the following competencies:

  • Proven professional experience in ECD, especially in development settings with knowledge of child protection and integrated programming
  • Professional experience in planning, managing and carrying out training
  • Excellent communication skills both oral and writing
  • Ability to work under stressful environment
  • Familiarity with the Zimbabwe’s development sector, health and social services systems as well as on UNICEF’s and Government of Zimbabwe working environment and systems is a great asset.
  • Application Procedure

    If interested and available, please submit your application letter, CV, Technical proposal and an all-inclusive financial proposal detailing monthly professional fees, field travel costs estimated 5 days per month (in country)

    How to apply:

    UNICEF is committed to diversity and inclusion within its workforce, and encourages qualified female and male candidates from all national, religious and ethnic backgrounds, including persons living with disabilities, to apply to become a part of our organization. To apply, click on the following link http://www.unicef.org/about/employ/?job=509171

    Read more here:: RELIEFWEB CAREERS INT