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Who actually cares for children in slums? Why we need to think, and do, more about paid childcare in urbanizing sub-Saharan Africa

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Sunil BhopalORCiD



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


The early years are critical and inform the developmental trajectory of children. This is justifiably attracting growing policy attention. Much of this attention is focused on interventions and policies directed at parents, especially mothers. Yet emerging evidence suggests that increasing numbers of children in rapidly urbanizing low- and middle-income countries are now spending much of their day with other formal and informal childcare providers, including largely unregulated paid childcare providers. This paper summarizes the limited literature about the use of such paid childcare in low- and middle-income countries in sub-Saharan Africa, before considering possible reasons behind the lack of research evidence. Finally, key research gaps and their implications for public health practice are explored, with reference to the ongoing British Academy funded Nairobi Early Childcare in Slums research programme in Nairobi, Kenya. We argue that improving childcare may be an under-explored strategy to help some of the world's most disadvantaged children in the most important period of their lives, and that interventions in this largely informal market should be built on a rigorous research base. This article is part of the theme issue 'Multidisciplinary perspectives on social support and maternal-child health'.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Hughes RC, Kitsao-Wekulo P, Muendo R, Bhopal SS, Kimani-Murage E, Hill Z, Kirkwood BR

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Philosophical transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological sciences

Year: 2021

Volume: 376

Issue: 1827

Online publication date: 03/05/2021

Acceptance date: 28/01/2021

Date deposited: 24/05/2021

ISSN (print): 0962-8436

ISSN (electronic): 1471-2970

Publisher: Royal Society


DOI: 10.1098/rstb.2020.0430

PubMed id: 33938281


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