Nigeria launches a national action plan for orphans and vulnerable children
Abuja, May 17 2007 - A five-year national plan of action for orphans and vulnerable children (OVC) was launched today by the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, in Abuja. At the same ceremony, the President also presented the new national gender policy and gender statistical digest. The OVC national plan provides a clear framework for policy makers, programme planners and implementers at all levels for designing and carrying out interventions to mitigate the impact of orphanhood and other causes of vulnerability on children.
A rapid assessment of orphans and vulnerable children conducted in 2004 with UNICEF support revealed that there were about seven millions orphans in Nigeria in 2003 and that out of this total number, about 25% were orphaned by HIV-AIDS. With the spread of HIV-AIDS, the number of orphans is expected to increase rapidly in the coming years to 8.2 million by 2010. Other immediate causes of orphanhood include accidental death, high maternal mortality and communal conflicts.
‘Until recently, the scale of the national response has not been commensurate with the magnitude of the orphans and vulnerable children’s problems. Without taking determined steps to address the specific needs of children, there will be no chance of meeting the Millennium Development Goals’, said Mrs Inna Maryam Ciroma, Minister of Women Affairs and Social Development. ‘This plan is therefore an important milestone in the field of Child Rights promotion and protection and will also serve as a concrete guide for programme implementers.’
The main goal of the plan is that by 2010, mechanisms for the protection, care and support for orphans and vulnerable children are in place and that provision of basic services is facilitated within a supportive environment. Basic services include education, health and nutrition, protection and social care. So far, the response to the crisis or orphans and vulnerable children has been largely community driven with the extending family providing the safety net for children’s protection. With the burden of poverty, it has become increasingly difficult for families and communities to cope with a growing number of orphans.
“All children have the right to quality education, health care and protection. Unfortunately today, orphaned children are not enjoying these rights”, said Dr Robert Limlim, UNICEF Deputy Representative a.i. ‘It is our hope that the national plan will address this situation, so that the rights of these children, who are among the most vulnerable of all, can be fulfilled. The children are waiting for our concrete actions. The time to act is now.’
The plan includes strategies to strengthen the capacity of care givers and the vulnerable children themselves as well as support to community-based responses. The plan also aims at ensuring that government at all levels protects the most vulnerable children through improved policy and legislation. The budget included in the plan comes to a total amount of $ 1.6 billion for the five-year period (2006-2010), which gives the extent of the investment needed to provide adequate support to vulnerable children in Nigeria.
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