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UNICEF has been working in Nigeria since 1953 to support the government of Nigeria implement programmes and policies for the realisation of children’s rights. Currently it is one of largest UNICEF country programmes in the world.
Nigeria is the most populous nation in Africa with more than 140 million people, including 40 million children under-five years old. Well over half of the population lives in poverty, with wide regional disparities. Progress in achieving the Millennium Development Goals in Nigeria will contribute tremendously to attainment of the Goals for the continent.
In concert with other development partners we support the government of Nigeria in the areas of child survival, development, protection and participation.
There has been some improvements in the situation of children and women during the last country programme 2002-2007. However, a lot remains to be done to overcome the significant problems that still confront Nigerian children. Child and infant mortality continue to be major challenges in the face of widespread occurrence of malaria, vaccine-preventable diseases, diarrhoea and acute respiratory infection. The country has a high infant mortality rate of 86 per 1, 000 live births, and an under-five mortality rate of 191 per 1, 000 live births. DPT and measles coverage for one year olds are 54% and 62% respectively but routine immunisation coverage is still low. Protein-energy malnutrition is also a problem with one third of all children under-five being either stunted, underweight or wasted.
At 3.9%, the adult HIV Prevalence rate seems low compared to some countries in the region but because of its large population, Nigeria has the third largest numbers of people living with the HIV virus. Less than 5% of pregnant HIV positive women are reached by services to prevent mother to child transmission of HIV. More than 73, 000 children are born with HIV every year. Yet access to anti-retroviral therapy is still low: only 10% of children in need are receiving ART.
Our survival and early childhood care programme seeks to support Nigeria achieve MDGs 4, 5 and 6 by contributing to reducing mortality through malaria control, promoting baby-friendly initiatives - especially breastfeeding, immunisation activities, HIV/AIDS prevention and mitigation (including reducing mother-to-child transmission of HIV/AIDS), and monitoring and reducing malnutrition, promoting safe motherhood and vitamin A supplementation. Nigeria is one of the four countries in the world with a reservoir of the wild polio virus. In the last two years a lot of progress has been made - 2010 saw an amazing 95% reduction in cases - and all Polio partners are currently working with the government to ensure interruption of the transmission of the wild polio virus.
The Basic Education targets the achievement of MDG 2 by contributing to improving net primary school enrolment, retention and educational attainment of children - especially girls and marginalised children. Currently the national primary school net enrolment rate is 69.6% but this masks wide regional and gender disparities. The FGN/UNICEF programmes aim to improve the situation by establishing more ‘girl-friendly’, ‘child-friendly’ schools, promoting quality teaching and learning practices and caring for children in need of special protection.
Our Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Programme relates to target 10 of MDG 7 which requires the reduction by half of the proportion of people without access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation by 2015. It seeks to contribute to a 20% improvement in access to and utilisation of improved water and sanitation facilities and improve access to protected water and sanitation facilities for communities and schools.
The protection and participation programme addresses the development, protection and participation among youths by promoting HIV/AIDS awareness, especially through peer groups. It also contributes to the elimination of the worst forms of child labour, the reduction of child trafficking, and the protection of children from sexual exploitation and Female Genital Mutilation.
The planning and communication programme which is cross cutting focuses on analysing social statistics for advocacy, policy development and wide dissemination of data. It also promotes relevant changes in individual behaviour and social norms by developing communication packages for key household practices.
For a large, diverse and complex country like Nigeria our programme intervention is decentralised to better respond to localised needs and efficient use of resources. To this end we have four field offices and a country office in the capital, Abuja, which coordinates activities at the field offices level and provides general oversight and direction for the entire country programme.
I am pleased to note that the last 2002-2007 country programme contributed to the progress the MICS3 now indicates. According to MICS 3 which is due to be released soon appreciable progress has been made in under-five and infant mortality rates.
With the support of our interventions 3.2 million people in rural areas now have safe water sources. Universal salt iodisation has been achieved and there is now a strong food fortification drive for sugar, vegetable oil, wheat/maize flour with Vit. A. Good progress in girls’ net enrolment in 6 northern states from 56% to 78% and the Child rights law is now domesticated nationally and in 17 out of 20 target States of the country.
We are in the midst of designing our new country programme. It will seek to build on the achievements of the last programme with a major thrust on disparity reduction. It will consolidate progress made on child survival and maternal health through a roll out of Integrated Maternal New Child Health strategy and strengthen systems development. The new programme will run from 2012-2016.