Zambia Early Childhood Development Project

zambia-image.jpgWhile a large number of studies have investigated the impact of early childhood experiences on children’s developmental, health, and educational outcomes in developed countries, relatively little evidence is available on early childhood development in sub-Saharan Africa. To address this knowledge gap, the Zambian Ministry of Education, the Examination Council of Zambia, UNICEF, the University of Zambia, and the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University launched the Zambian Early Childhood Development Project (ZECDP) in 2009, a collaborative effort to measure the effects of an ongoing anti-malaria initiative on children’s development in Zambia.

In order to measure the full impact of the anti-malaria campaign on Zambia’s human capital development, the ZECDP created a new comprehensive instrument for assessing children’s physical, socio-emotional, and cognitive development before and throughout their schooling careers—the first assessment tool of its kind in Zambia. Completed in May 2010, the Zambian Child Assessment Test (ZamCAT) combines existing child development measures with newly developed items in order to provide a broad assessment of children of preschool age in the Zambian context.

After careful calibration of the new survey tool through two rounds of piloting, a first cohort of 1,686 children born in 2004 was assessed between July and December 2010. In 2011, successful follow-up occurred with 1,250 of those children, and an additional follow-up is planned for June-August 2012. The early stages of the project demonstrate that comprehensive child assessments are feasible within standard population-based household surveys.

The ZECDP collaborators hope that the data collected as part of this project, as well as future work in this area, will not only improve understanding of child development in this context but also help identify key interventions towards improved outcomes in a rapidly changing developing world.

The co-principal investigators of the ZECDP are Günther Fink, Ph.D., an affiliated faculty member of the Center on the Developing Child and assistant professor of international health economics at Harvard School of Public Health, and Beatrice Matafwali, Ph.D., of the University of Zambia. Other project members include Corrina Moucheraud, Harvard School of Public Health, and Stephanie Simmons Zuilkowski, Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Read Faculty Spotlight feature article on Günther Fink >>


ZECDP 2010 Assessment Final Report >>

Study Survey Tool >>


For more information, contact Günther Fink, Ph.D., Harvard School of Public Health,



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Major support for the Zambian Early Childhood Development Project has been provided by: the Özyegin Family – AÇEV Global Early Childhood Research Fund.