We believe that every child has the right to the best start in life

Children Survive and Thrive I&I - 2

a children's care worker smiling and laughing with a child she's carrying on her back.

We want all children to survive and to achieve their potential during the first years of life - through good health, nutrition, opportunities for early learning, responsive and supportive caregiving, safety and protection.

A children's care worker plays with a child and their parent.

We want parents and other family members, communities and services to adopt the principles of children’s rights to survive and thrive, leaving no child behind, and supporting child-centred and family-centred care and nurturing.


  • Tragically, in 2017 5.4 million children around the world died before the age of five years. [1]

  • Of those that survive it is estimated that almost half are not achieving their developmental potential [2] which has massive knock-on effects throughout their lives for themselves, their families, communities and wider society.  A lack of health, nutrition, safety and protection, stimulation and care – all of these contribute to poor outcomes that can often last a lifetime. 

  • Worldwide, an estimated 200 million children up to the age of five years have poor cognitive development due to poverty, a lack of health and nutrition, and inadequate care. [3]

  • More than four in ten young children in low- and middle-income countries – an estimated 250 million children – are at risk of stunted growth.

  • In 76 countries at least 30% of children are at risk of poor education, inadequate learning and decreased earnings as adults. [4]

  • This is a global challenge.  While children in poorer countries are more likely to face challenges to reach their full potential, children all over the world face adversities that block their development as happy, health and confident individuals. [5]

Two siblings playing on a swingset


The good news is that there is a window of opportunity – from pregnancy up to a child’s successful entry into primary schooling – that can make a significant difference in a child’s life, boost a child’s development, and break the cycle of poverty and other disadvantages. Because young children and their parents have holistic needs, to really make a difference they require support across key areas.  This integrated approach to early childhood development is one of the most cost-effective ways to break cycles of inequity and inequality that occur generation after generation.  It should include the following elements: 

  • Grow – children’s health and nutrition 

  • Love – responsiveness to children, and caring and supportive relationships

  • Play and Learn – children’s stimulation and early learning

  • Safe – safety and protection in homes and communities

  • Secure – linking family’s needs and social protection programmes (e.g. child benefits)

a parent talking to their toddler


Through partnerships, we are interested in contributing to change in the following areas:

  1. Supporting families with young children, to help them reach their developmental potential up to their successful transition to primary school – through good health, nutrition, opportunities for early learning, responsive and supportive caregiving, safety and protection

  2. Reducing harm – for example, ensuring a strong focus on children and families who are experiencing or at high risk of neglect or abuse; building resilience among children with adverse childhood experiences(opens in new window)(opens in new window); and tackling gender-related barriers that lead to unequal access for girls and boys to services and support

  3. Building capacity to improve the delivery of early childhood development, based on evidence of what works

  4. Strengthening organisations driving these changes, to ensure the work has long term benefit

  5. Supporting parents, carers and communities to be active and knowledgeable champions of effective early child development

  6. Developing and influencing guidelines, procedures, policies and implementation plans, and acting on opportunities for meaningful collaboration among key stakeholders

a child care worker speaking to two children in a kitchen


Meeting the needs of children and young people has been a cross-cutting theme across all previously funded programmes in the last ten years. Comic Relief has previously supported work for children and young people that:

  • Protected them from violence, exploitation and abuse

  • Integrated children and young people into safe and secure families

  • Improved their access to good quality relevant, non-formal education and training 

  • Provided increased and more secure incomes for families 

  • Provided safer working environments and protection from harmful work

  • Supported people and organisations to hold decision-makers to account and to take a greater role in decision-making

Through our previous education programme, Comic Relief funding for children and young people went towards: 

  • Improving access to good quality education

  • Providing greater equality between girls and boys

  • Building the confidence and skills of young people and a belief in their ability to improve their opportunities in life

See our other focus areas

Children Survive & Thrive I&I - Other Focus Areas

A safe place to be, for everyone

Global Mental Health Matters

Safety & Equality for Women and Girls


  1.  World Health Organisation (2018).  Children: reducing mortality.  Viewed at: https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/children-reducing-mortality(opens in new window)(opens in new window)

  2. Advancing Early Childhood Development: from Science to Scale.  An Executive Summary for the Lancet’s Series (2016).  https://www.thelancet.com/series/ECD2016(opens in new window)(opens in new window)  Woodhead, M. (2014). Early Childhood Development: Delivering inter‐sectoral policies, programmes and services in low‐resource settings. 

  3. World Health Organisation (2018).  Nurturing care for early childhood development: a framework for helping children survive and thrive to transform health and human potential, p. 10.

  4. World Health Organisation (2018).  Nurturing care for early childhood development: a framework for helping children survive and thrive to transform health and human potential.