Segun Awofadeji in Bauchi
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Nigeria has warned that internally displaced children are vulnerable to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The warning was contained in a UNICEF’s report that looked into the risks and challenges faced by internally displaced children and the urgent actions needed to protect them.
The report, which was titled “Lost at Home,” stated that there were 12 million new displacements of children in 2019. It pointed out that 3.8 million of them were caused by conflict and violence while 8.2 million were displaced by disasters linked mostly to weather-related events like flooding and storms.
A press release that was signed by the UNICEF Representative in Nigeria, Mr. Peter Hawkins, and made available to newsmen yesterday, said: “In North-east Nigeria, there are currently 1.9 million people displaced from their homes. Sixty percent of them are children while 25 per cent of them are under the age of five.
“Globally, an estimated 19 million children – more than ever before, according to UNICEF – were living in displacement within their own countries due to conflict and violence in 2019 – some of them for years.
“‘Lost at Home,’ looks at the risks and challenges internally displaced children face, and the urgent actions needed to protect them. As COVID-19 continues to spread around the world, these children are among the most vulnerable to its direct and indirect impacts.
“Hundreds of thousands of children in north-east Nigeria are living in the shadow of conflict – and now in the increasingly challenging shadow of a global pandemic and its potential socio-economic aftermath.”
Hawkins said that children are especially vulnerable to new crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic, which creates gaps in the UNICEF’s ability to keep them safe.
“We must urgently work together – all of us, government and humanitarian partners – to keep them safe, healthy, learning and protected,” he said.
He added that COVID-19 pandemic would make the critical situation of the displaced children and families around the world even worse.
Hawkins said that internally displaced persons live in overcrowded camps or informal settlements with limited access to basic hygiene and health services and where physical distancing would not be possible.
This, he said, is true in Nigeria’s north-east, where conditions posed a particular challenge to containing the possible spread of diseases like COVID-19.
He also said that internally displaced children around are at risk of exposure to violence, exploitation, abuse and trafficking.