By Segun Awofadeji in Bauchi
As part of the World Children’s Day, the United Nations children’s Fund (UNICEF)Tuesday called on global leaders to commit to doing more to fulfil children’s rights.
The call came with a global request asking individuals to sign a global online petition asking for ‘children to be put back on the agenda’.
“We want to build a world where every child is in school, safe from harm and can fulfil their potential – and nowhere is this more true than in Nigeria,” said Mohamed Fall, UNICEF’s representative in Nigeria.
According to a statement by Mr Samuel Kaalu, the Communication Officer, UNICEF Nigeria, Bauchi Field Office, “A lot has been achieved – but there is still much to do to ensure that Nigerian children benefit from advances in child rights. At the moment, too many children are being left behind, and we need to reach them.”
Nigeria has the world’s highest number of out-of-school children, and one of its highest rates of maternal, child and infant mortality.
More than four million children are unimmunised and tens of millions of Nigerians still do not have access to clean water and proper sanitation, putting children’s health at risk.
The UNICEF representative in Nigeria also noted that diseases like pneumonia, diarrhea, and malaria – combined with underlying malnutrition – are responsible for most of the deaths among infants and children in Nigeria.
According to him, Nigeria’s burden of stunted growth among children is the second highest in the world, with 16.5 million affected, and the burden of severe acute malnutrition is high, with an estimated 2.6 million children severely acutely malnourished.
“No matter where a child is born – whether into wealth or poverty – they and their parents have the same hopes and dreams for their future. And we owe it to all children to give them a fair chance to survive and fulfil those dreams.
“In partnership with the Nigerian government, we are determined to ensure that stronger investment will yield progress for all children in education, health – including ensuring routine immunization for all, nutrition and child protection,” said Mohamed Fall
He said Nigerian children experience a wide range of abuses and harmful practices. An estimated three in five children have suffered one or more forms of violence before reaching 18, with over 70 per cent experiencing multiple incidents of violence.
“This World Children’s Day, we must recommit to children – knowing that for Nigeria to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, we must invest in long-lasting institutional and community-based systems and policies for children’s survival, growth and development,” he said.
Mohammed added that “Nigerian children have a huge role to play in the country’s national development. It is the generation of children growing up today who will take their place as Nigeria’s leaders tomorrow – and who will be able to take further – to really accelerate – the progress we make now.”
The statement added that in the UNICEF Nigeria Bauchi Field Office, supported by states of Bauchi, Jigawa, Plateau and Taraba, there will be children takeovers of managerial and editorial positions at Bauchi Radio Corporation; Bauchi State Television; Jigawa State Television; Jigawa State Radio; Taraba State Broadcasting Service and Taraba Television.