Proximity of care: A new approach to designing for early childhood in vulnerable urban contexts

When it comes to refugee and informal settlements, the data is clear: the number and size of these areas will only increase in the coming decades. Given the multi-source vulnerabilities of populations living in this context, the needs of the youngest and most vulnerable are often unheard in decision making and planning. Although children up to 5 years old have significantly different needs to older children, they often remain invisible to municipal leaders or are categorised with older children from a planning perspective.

Arup and the Bernard van Leer Foundation have partnered to develop a guide to assess, design and implement child-centred interventions in vulnerable urban contexts such as informal and refugee settlements, to improve the living conditions and well-being of young children and their caregivers, with benefits to the broader community.

The publication lays out the needs of four key groups living in vulnerable urban contexts: 0–3 year olds, 3–5 year olds, caregivers and pregnant women. It then outlines recommendations to support each of them at a household, neighbourhood and city level.

We are also jointly developing a Design Guide to support government authorities, urban practitioners, development and humanitarian organisations operating in informal and refugee settlements to profile their work as child and family friendly.

The Design Guide will be available in October 2020.