UNICEF, IHS Partner to Address Child Issues in Rural Communities

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Martins Ifijeh

The United Nations Children’s Education Fund (UNICEF) has partnered IHS Nigeria, the Nigerian subsidiary of IHS Towers, to support Child Friendly Community Initiative (CFCI), as part of plans to address child health issues in rural communities across the country.

Speaking at the signing ceremony in Lagos recently, the Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer, HIS Nigeria, Mohamad Darwish said this was critical in driving sustainability efforts within local communities in Nigeria.

He said: “We commended UNICEF’s efforts in driving this initiative. Our four pillars – ethics, people, environment and education – have been critical in driving our sustainability efforts within local communities in which we operate throughout the country, and we are delighted to partner with UNICEF to continue addressing the needs of the most vulnerable individuals in-line with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.”

He said a child friendly community is one where every child receives the nutrients, dietary diversity and stimulation that they need to develop; where every child is fully immunised, has a birth certificate, is protected from violence, exploitation and abuse, has access to quality healthcare, education and clean water; where the community is certified as open defecation free; and where parents, caregivers, young people and community leaders are informed about and actively engaged in promoting the well-being and development of children.

“Communities will be sensitised on child rights and child-centred attitudes, behaviours and practices and means of improving access to basic services that promote child well-being and development.

“Community level structures and institutions will also be strengthened through training to actively plan, manage services and maintain/sustain created assets,” he said.

On his part, the UNICEF Nigeria Representative, Peter Hawkins said vulnerable children tend to suffer from multiple overlapping deprivations that are often mutually reinforcing.

He added that UNICEF believes a holistic and integrated approach is required that actively supports communities and local government with child-centred planning and service delivery, informed decision-making and corresponding attitudes, behaviours and practices that lead to better outcomes for children.

He said children and women in Nigeria face multiple deprivations and challenges, with many rooted in poverty and inequality, “and millions of them vulnerable to disease, malnutrition, lack of education and numerous violations of their rights.

“UNICEF aims for the Child Friendly Community Initiative to help accelerate tangible and sustained improvements for children in rural Nigeria who are consistently experiencing the highest levels of deprivation and poverty, with a view towards Nigeria achieving the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.

“The CFCI will be accelerated across Nigeria with the active engagement and support of a diverse range of stakeholders; the private sector has a key role to play as well.

“We are delighted that IHS shares this vision and is the first company to join the initiative, demonstrating how the private sector can help boost development for children”, Hawkins said.