As Nigeria grapples with the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic, the United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund has called for reinforcement on efforts geared towards protecting the rights of children in the country.
Making the call on Thursday in a statement to commemorate the 2021 Children’s Day, the UNICEF’s Country Director in Nigeria, Peter Hawkins, lamented the outbreak of the pandemic, saying it had threatened decades of progress the world body made for children’s development.
“It has been a challenging year for us all with COVID-19 pandemic, not least of all – Nigeria’s children. As we rightfully celebrate Nigerian children today, let us also remember that the COVID-19 crisis 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.
“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”, the Country Director stated.
Hawkins commended the efforts of the Nigerian government at all levels and urged society to protect education, health, and protection services in response to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on children.
He noted that the Nigerian children were resilient, talented, and aspire to do great things, pointing out that it is “our responsibility to give them the platform and encouragement to do just that.”
The country Director added, “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.
“We know that protecting children and investing in women and families is not only the right thing to do – it has proven to be a sound economic choice and a cost-effective tool for national development.
“As we celebrate our children today, we must act in their best interests and deploy innovative solutions to fast-track learning and health services to build back better, for every Nigerian child.”