From Andy Esiet, Calabar
The United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) has charged the remaining 10 out of the 36 states, including the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), to domesticate the Child Rights Act which passed into law in 2003 to protect children, as the world works towards meeting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) target.
Recall that the Minister of Women Affairs and Social Development, Paulen Talen had late last year said by end of 2020 all the states in the country would have domesticated as the full implementation of the policy would make it an offence for any girl or boy to be married off before the age of 18.
However the Knowledge Management Specialist of UNICEF Field Office, Enugu, Boco Abdul, during a 4-day UNICEF Nigeria in collaboration with Cross River State Government and United Purpose, Calabar Training of Youth Volunteers on Real Time Monitoring for the Child Friendly Communities Initiative at the Teachers Continuous Training Ibogo in Biase Local Government Area (LGA) of the state on Monday, said if all the states domesticate the Act, the child’s right to care and protection, education and others will be guaranteed as the issue of marrying out a child before 18 years will be outlawed and the child will have enough time to complete at least his or her senior secondary school education.
Abdul who gave a brief introduction on “Child Rights, SDGs and Developmental Programming and the role of UNICEF”, said that efforts should be made to build more educational facilities for children to enable them have easy access to education, which is of great importance to the United Nations and UNICEF, noting that “if government is not doing what it ought to do, the populace should hold it accountable”, as UNICEF is determined to create child friendly communities in Nigeria and other parts of the world..
She therefore, charged the Child-Friendly Communities Initiative (CFCI) volunteers to dedicate themselves to their duties and ensure that they take the message of Child Rights, Child Protection, sustainable health and others as specified in the SDGs to their various communities.
Speaking at the commencement of the training, the Vice Chairman of Biase Local Government Council, Mr. Lawson Ekpe, expressed delight that Biase was selected for the pilot project saying the council was ready to partner with UNICEF to ensure that the programme was successful as Biase is the pilot state for the initiative.
Ekpe encouraged the participants to take the training seriously, describing the training as very important in the sense that the knowledge gained would serve the volunteers and help them contribute positively towards engendering child-friendly communities in their various localities and help them in future.
On his part, the Programme Manager of United Purpose, Nanpet Chuktu, said for the CFCI, the main goal is to strengthen service delivery around the child and “specifically, how do we ensure that children get immunize at the right time; mothers get sensitize to take their children for immunization; mothers are reminded regularly to go for antenatal when they are expecting, and should take the necessary vaccination; children are weight… If you recall there is a particular weight bracket for every child’s age, hence it is important for mothers and the community to monitor it.
“The objective of this programme is to bridge that gap between the community and the primary health care center or the service provision. A lot of women in the locality where we work give birth at home, and we realized that they don’t go to register the child. So the National Population Commission is not aware that the child is born. Then it means that there’s a problem in our planning and budgeting towards meeting the needs of this child.
“If we begin to notice that a percentage of the children are underweight, it’s a sign that they are probably not feeding well. So what do we do? This project aims to escalate these things and look for the nutrition department in the primary health care and tell them ‘look we are just coming back from Ehom Central and these were what we found out – we weight 150 children and 20 percent of them are malnourished. Is there something you can do. These are some of the sensitization we are doing, but we are not doing it directly ourselves as an NGO. We are collaborating with the local government. It has set up a committee.
“At the community level we sensitize them and engaged them through key indicators of child growth. From that we set up a mini taskforce in the community. They’ve gone with our support. They tested the community borehole to see if it meets the minimum standard. We have been weighing children every month at the primary health care centers. UNICEF supported us by providing scales. So we are increasing the number of scales in the primary health care centers. We are shaking and stimulating the environment so that the communities are sensitized.
On the number of households that have been covered, the Programme Manager said “between the two wards we are a little shy of 4500 households. Currently from our statistics we would be having about 15000 plus total population. At the end of this week we will be commencing, with the support of UNICEF, the documentation of households. The first one we did was with the youth. They went door to door. Now they have come up with a systematic way. They’ll be giving us an app. We have tested the app. We will use the youth they will now go house to house, together with the support of the chiefs. We will be able to enumerate all the houses.
“Remember this is just Ehom ward. This pilot is just to enable us see an entire ward. Can we make a difference in one full ward? What’s the impact? Can we be sure that all the children under 5 and are ready for school, are going to school. Can we improve immunization by 20 percent? Can we ensure that every child that is less than 5 years old receive a birth certificate. We are not doing registration. We are calling on the National Population Commission to come in and support us.”
On the target achievement of the project, Country Director of United Purpose, Mr Thomas De Douhet said, “Every birth should be registered, every child should go to school, every child should be receiving all the vaccines and medical treatment he or she needs, every child should know his or her rights, and also nutrition.”