International Children’s Day: MAMA Centre Raises Concerns Over Children out-of-school, Malnutrition, WASH
The Mothers And Marginalised Advocacy Centre (MAMA Centre) commemorates the 2021 International Children’s Day with the theme “Unite to reverse the impact of COVID-19 pandemic on children”.
We on this memorable Day, appreciate the efforts of the parents, guidance, teachers, caregivers and every other individual or group who work tirelessly to promote healthy, safe and secured space for children to survive and realise their potential.
In the spirit of celebrations, we recall that thousands of children in Nigeria are denied access to basic means of survival including education, food, health, social support, water, sanitisation and hygiene; and these without doubt aggravate the impact of Covid-19 pandemic on them.
We are perturbed by the recent data from Nigeria’s Ministry of Education estimating that the number of out-of-school children stands at 10.1 million, an increase of more than 3 million from the previous year 2020 and the highest in Sub-Sahran Africa. This has been attributed to the impact of Covid-19 pandemic.
We observed that a high number of Nigerian children are unnecessarily conditioned to contribute to household income and discouraged by family or relatives or caregivers from attending schools and other socialisation facilities. This includes reported deteriorating psycho-social care and family relationships that exacerbate reported cases of girl child marriage and Violence Against Children.
We are concerned by the rising number of children lacking access to water around the world; and particularly Nigeria with a more disturbing figure estimated at 26.5 million (29%) children who experience high or extremely high water vulnerability. This in effect results in the death of about 100,000 Nigerian children annually of water-related diseases, as recently reported by UNICEF.
More importantly, we are seriously worried by the increasing exposure of children to the impact of armed conflicts including kidnapping, banditry and insurgency in Nigeria. This includes psycho-emotional torture, ill-treatment and physical battering inflicted on them at various homes, schools, and secluded facilities, for unjustified socio-economic and cultural conditions that disrupt their healthy and secured living as well as appropriate socialisation.
While the Universal Declaration of Human Right and Child Right Act stress the importance of adequate nutrition status as a component of Child Right in Nigeria, malnutrition impedes physical growth and cognitive development of children with no fewer than 2.5million children suffering from Severe Acute Malnutrition in Nigeria, according to UNICEF. This includes an alarmingly high number (49%) of children suffering the consequences of poor diets and a failing food system like stunting, wasting and being overweight that hamper their rapid growth and cognitive development.
We are not unaware that a high number of malnourished Nigerian children, especially between six and two years of age are at risk of poor brain development, weak learning, low immunity, increased infections and, in many cases, death.
Unattended impact of childhood Malnutrition and Severe Acute Malnutrition results in monumental economic and productivity losses at adulthood, irreparable potential loss, increased susceptibility to communicable diseases and other infections.
We therefore reiterate commitment to promote and restore dignity of Nigerian children, while calling for massive advocacy for the adoption and full implementation of Child Right Act in all states to secure children from physical, mental or emotional injury, abuse, neglect or ill-treatment, including sexual abuse, torture, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
We also call for targeted implementation of the Child Right Act that upholds Articles 12 and 14 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child to form their own views and to express their views freely through the media on matters affecting them.
We call on the government at all levels to invest adequate resources in interventions aimed at preventing and treatment of malnutrition among young children; support nursing mothers to adequately feed and care for their children; improve nutrition education and legislation to discourage consumption of unhealthy foods; family and children empowerment to provide and demand nutritious food.
We encourage the governments to minimize challenges, including security of schools, militating against full enrolment of children in all categories; targeted interventions by various states and local governments to promote children education, since education is on the concurrent list; strengthened oversight by the governments on traditional private schools like Almajiris, which teach millions of children in the country.
We call for significant policy effort to ensure adequate access to water, sanitation and hygiene systems by children at all levels.
We further demand adequate efforts by governments, relevant authorities and communities to protect children from recurring armed conflicts, kidnapping, banditry and insurgency.
Executive Director, MAMA Centre