Dato Sri’ Jessy Lai signed a memo at the UNICEF KL headquarters, aimed to help children in poverty over the first 1000 days of their life (ages 0-3). The memo was also signed by Head of Fundraising and Partnership Of UNICEF Richard J. Beighton, and leadership of the UNICEF Malaysia country office Ms. Marianne Clark-Hattingh. Vietnam and Philippines are the first two countries to receive help through the SJC 1000 days programme.
“When the programme matures over time, we will continue helping other countries, assisting young children who live in poverty. According to a report by UNICEF, every year there are 159 million children under the age of 5 globally who face stunted growth, and 3 million children die of malnutrition yearly. UNICEF pointed out that malnutrition in the first 1000 days of a child’s life can cause stunted growth, affecting their brain development and severely limiting their potential. Damages like these are irreversible, and will have long term effects on a child’s development, such as lesser learning abilities, lesser income etc. Medicine Journey “The Lancet” also published an article in 2017 showing there are 250 million children in developing countries who face stunted growth and poverty. “
Indeed, on my trips to rural and poorer areas, the children are exceptionally small and thin, Some of them never had the chance to receive education, and are left far behind their peers who live in the city,” said Lai. Lai has participated in many children aid programme locally and internationally in the past. Her experience helping children in poverty has given her a full understanding of the importance of early childhood development. Without proper nutrition, these children face lifelong repercussions.
“I read up a lot on this topic, and learnt that the first 1000 days of a child’s life is key to their future development. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity to ensure their wellbeing.” The Murdoch Childrens Research Institute also published an article titled First Thousand Days, espousing the importance of proper development in the first 1000 days of a child. Between ages 0-3, a child’s brain neurones make up to a thousand connections per second to aid general functions and learning abilities. When this process is stunted, it can severely impact the physical and mental growth of a child. After the age of 3, this is extremely difficult to correct.
“It is my wish to help children living in poverty receive the nutrition, care and education they need. This is also my birthday wish, and SJC 1000 days was birthed out of this ambition,” said Lai.
The purpose of SJC 1000 days is to assist the development of children in poverty in the first 1000 days of their life, and also to raise awareness about the importance of childhood development in this phase.