Excluded and invisible children
There is an estimated 8.6 million orphaned children in Nigeria and 930,000 of these are orphaned by AIDS. Orphans and vulnerable children are easily trafficked, prone to sexual assault, less likely to attend schools, stigmatised and excluded. They therefore deserve special care, but presently no adequate care system and social services are available for them.
The stigma and discrimination attached to AIDS culturally are transferred to orphans whose parents died of AIDS; hence they are not integrated into their communities. They lack access to healthcare, education, protection and do not get any support.
Another category of children who experience neglect are children with disability because of the taboo and traditional beliefs that surrounds them. Rehabilitation centres are not maintained and suffer infrastructural decay and under-funding.
Another phenomenon of grave concern in Nigeria is that of children living on the streets. These children are involved in different types of work without any clear pattern and live under bridges, in motor parks, market stalls or with families. The ages of these children can range from 5-17. Those children are more prone to illnesses, malnourishment, drug abuse, crime, accidents, arrest and harassment by law enforcement agents, and are also at risk of being trafficked.
Among children living on the streets, special mention must be made of the Almajirai who are found in the Northern part of the country. The original idea was for these young children to be sent out from their homes to learn Qu’ranic education in traditional way under the care of a mallam. However, the system has been diverted from its original objective and the children have become a means to financial gain by their substitute caregivers who send them to beg in the streets and to carry out other menial jobs. This makes them vulnerable to different kinds of to health, physical and psychological hazards.