The United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF has maintained that protection of children and investment in women and families must not be downplayed as it is a sound economic choice and a cost-effective tool for national development.
This call to action is contained in a statement issued on Thursday by UNICEF’s Country Director, Peter Hawkins in commemoration of Nigerian Children’s Day.
He rued the emergence of the Covid-19 pandemic and its devastating impact, just as he noted that the pandemic has been a child rights crisis in Nigeria and around the world.
“Poverty is rising, inequality is growing, and the pandemic has often disrupted the essential services that secure the health, education and protection of children and young people.
“The longer the pandemic goes on, the more intense the impact on women and children.’’
While the day is being celebrated the world over, the Country Director called for a ramp-up of efforts to cater for the vulnerable and the less privileged especially women and children.
“On this Nigerian Children’s Day, let us all agree that we cannot let one crisis compound another.
“The pandemic is threatening decades of progress we have made for children.
“Violence is perpetrated against one in four Nigerian children – and one in three Nigerian girls are sexually abused. This has only increased during the pandemic.
“Today of all days, we must commit to reinforce the protection mechanisms for all children.”
He also noted that the commemoration is coming at a challenging moment for child rights in Nigeria and the world, with the COVID-19 pandemic threatening gains made for children’s development, while he commended efforts at all levels of Nigerian government and society to protect education, health, and protection services in response to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on children.
“But we have learned from this pandemic too. One thing we have learned is that education takes place not only in schools – children can and should learn both in and out of school.
“A learning continuum is critical so that all children continue to get an education irrespective of their situation, location, or the pandemic.
“Nigerian children are resilient, talented, and aspire to do great things. And it is our responsibility to give them the platform and encouragement to do just that,’’ he demanded.