|© UNICEF Nigeria/2006/Aghaeze|
|The Senate President of the Children's Parliament reads a call to action on HIV/AIDS at the official ceremony celebrating National Children's Day on 27 May in Abuja, Nigeria.|
By Christine Jaulmes
ABUJA, Nigeria, 31 May 2006 – The global campaign against child AIDS received a huge boost in Nigeria last week as the country celebrated National Children’s Day and its theme, ‘Children and HIV/AIDS: Addressing the Challenges’.
Across Nigeria this past weekend, children were involved in rallies, debates, broadcast programmes and official ceremonies prominently featuring the issue of children – and often displaying the UNITE FOR CHILDREN UNITE AGAINST AIDS campaign colours. In Lagos, the Federal Road Safety Corps gathered over 1,500 children to celebrate the day and invited UNICEF to facilitate a session on children and AIDS. In Abuja, children participated in a festive float ride.
UNICEF-supported activities for Children’s Day included a 26 May special session of the National Children’s Parliament, which allowed young parliamentarians to debate the impact of HIV/AIDS on children and issue a call to action. The session featured lively deliberations about what parents, communities, schools, health services, governments, religious institutions and children themselves should do to fight AIDS.
|© UNICEF Nigeria/2006/Ozoemenan|
|Nigerian children take part in a float ride in the capital to celebrate Children's Day.|
Prevention, treatment and education
Wearing a traditional caftan and cap, the Senate President of the Children’s Parliament, Ibrahim Adamu, addressed high-level government officials, UNICEF representatives and a hundreds of children gathered in Abuja’s Eagle Square for the official ceremony marking Children’s Day on Saturday, 27 May.
“Less conferences and more antiretroviral drugs is what we want, so that government commitment can have a direct impact on the children infected and affected by HIV/AIDS,” said Ibrahim.
“HIV/AIDS kills our parents, teachers, doctors and even we the children. Sadly, little concrete measures have been taken to address specifically the needs of children,” he added, presenting a representative of Nigeria’s President Olusegun Obasanjo with the children’s call to action.
Among the actions urged by the Children’s Parliament were:
• Prevention of discrimination against children living with HIV
• Provision of free medical services, adequate nutrition and counselling centres for infected and affected children
• Adoption of HIV/AIDS and reproductive health education in the school curriculum.
|© UNICEF Nigeria/2006/Aghaeze|
|UNICEF Representative in Nigeria Ayalew Abai presents an award to one of the winners of a school competition at the Children's Day ceremony.|
Focus on children
“The impact of HIV and AIDS on children and adolescents is tragic,“ President Obasanjo said in a national broadcast on Children’s Day. “The strategic focus of the government is to put young children and adolescents at the centre of the HIV/AIDS agenda and to halt and begin to reverse the spread of the disease among children.”
UNICEF Representative in Nigeria Ayalew Abai applauded the President’s comments. “We are pleased to see that the government is taking the lead in the AIDS campaign that UNICEF, UNAIDS and other partners launched in November 2005 in Nigeria,” he said. “The disease is still a long way from being brought under control. In fact, we should redouble our efforts. Young people still represent the most affected age group.
“One in 20 young people aged 20 to 29 years old is infected by HIV,” added Mr. Abai. “There are also an estimated 1.8 million children orphaned by AIDS in Nigeria. But this is just a fraction of the number of children whose lives have been radically altered by the impact of HIV/AIDS on their families and communities.”