May 27 of every year is unique in the history of Nigeria, as it is dedicated to the celebration of Children’s Day, when parents and other stakeholders go all out to give their wards special treats.
However, since the inauguration of the Day in 1964 by the United Nations, there is more to the implementation of children’s rights than desire, as regards access to sound healthcare, quality education, and other social needs, because in recent times, Nigeria has not been fortunate to be in the good records of global health organisations like the World Health Organisation (WHO), the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) and others.
This explained the motive behind the call by UNICEF to Nigerian governments and citizens to uphold and implement children’s rights to the letter. “Child rights will only be fully realized when every government and every citizen is aware of and upholds children’s rights, and every child can claim those rights”, said Peter Hawkins, new UNICEF country representative in Nigeria.
Hawkins, who spoke through a press release on Monday, on the commemoration of Children’s Day in Nigeria disclosed that the organisation is launching a campaign with the theme: ‘For every child, every right,’ to create awareness on child’s rights, and they are ready to work closely with governments to ensure that all Nigerians are aware of the rights that all children have. “This includes in particular children themselves”, he stated.
He noted further that while there have been many advances over the last years, children in Nigeria are still not accessing health, nutrition, education and other rights to the extent that they must. “Sadly, it is the most disadvantaged children who are suffering the greatest challenge in having their rights fulfilled.
“Working together, we can seize this moment and make it a turning point for every child; I look forward to picking up this challenge, as the new UNICEF Country Representative in Nigeria,” said Hawkins.
Prior to the commemoration today, available reports have shown that Nigeria has the second highest burden of stunted children in the world, with a national prevalence rate of 43 percent of children under five – translating into 16.5 million children. Malnutrition is a direct or underlying cause of 45 percent of all deaths of under-five children.
Again, another report by the United Nations Children Fund placed Nigeria in the 11th position in global ranking where new-born babies die due to lack of assistance during delivery, poverty, conflict and weak institutions. In fact, experts’ views showed that Nigeria has one of the highest childhood mortalities in the world.
Going forward, as Nigerians celebrate their kids today, UNICEF wants these ugly statistics improved in the country, saying it is a crucial moment for child’s rights in the country, and for child’s rights globally.
“Nigerian Children’s Day 2019 falls during the 30th anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), which is being commemorated this year around the world.
“As part of the celebrations, UNICEF is launching a “Passport to Your Rights” – a copy of the CRC in child-friendly language, in pocket format. UNICEF aims that every child in Nigeria has a copy by 2030 – the deadline for achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.
The CRC ‘passport’ will also be available in Hausa, Igbo, Yoruba and Pidgin languages, and helping to ensure access by millions of Nigerians.
“Thirty years ago, something incredible happened. World leaders came together in a moment of unity for the world’s children. They made a promise to every child to protect and fulfil their rights, by adopting the UN’s Convention on the Rights of the Child. The Convention established childhood as a period that is separate from adulthood – a time in which children should grow, learn, play, develop and flourish.
“On this Nigerian Children’s Day, we must look ahead to the future of childhood in this country, and re-commit to urgent, specific actions to protect the rights of every child – now, and in future generations”, said Hawkins.