2008 Children's Day celebrations
REMARKS BY THE ACTING UNICEF REPRESENTATIVE, DR. ROBERT LIMLIM, AT CELEBRATION OF THE NATIONAL CHILDREN’S DAY, ABUJA, on 27th MAY 2008
Honorable Minister of Women Affairs and Social Development,
I am very honored to speak today as we celebrate the National Children’s Day. It is wonderful to see every year this nation-wide mobilization around children. UNICEF believes that children should be at the centre of Government’s programmes and policies and more largely at the centre of all citizens’ attention, so that we will protect children and make sure they can enjoy their rights. We should never allow children to suffer or die when we could have prevented it. This annual celebration is a reminder to all of us that we need to keep our promises to the children of this country.
I am talking of promises particularly as we are looking at the theme for this year’s commemoration: ‘A Nigeria Fit for Children; A call for Renewal of Commitment’.
Nigeria signed the Conventions on the Rights of Child, Millennium Declaration in 2000, the AU charter on the Rights and Responsibility of African Children and committed itself to a World Fit for her children. In 2002, Nigeria also pledged to achieve specific goals for children and young people at the United Nations Special Session on children held in New York City. In furtherance of these promises and commitment Nigeria has enacted the Child Rights Act at the national and in 18 states of the country.
These are steps in the right direction because the welfare and protection of children are at the centre of these declarations and instruments. They are all aimed at ensuring that children enjoy their rights to survival, development, protection and participation.
There are important milestones which show that Government is taking seriously its commitment to children.
As UNICEF has a global mandate to advocate for the protection of children’s rights, we view the passage of the Child Rights Act as a major achievement for the realization of children’s rights in Nigeria. The passage of the Anti-Trafficking Act and the subsequent establishment of the National Agency for Prohibition of Traffic in persons (NAPTIP) have been equally critical to combat one of the worst forms of violence against children. We need to establish family courts to ensure that child justice administration is operationalised in Nigeria.
Improved access to schools as a result of the Universal Basic Education programme is another remarkable achievement. Today education is free for all children. Many schools have been renovated under the UBE scheme while teachers are benefiting from training.
In the Health Sector, the Federal Government has demonstrated a high level of commitment with the Health Sector reform and the Presidential task force on Health MDGs. Thanks to the efficiency and determination of the National Agency for Food and Drug Control, Nigeria is also the first country in Africa to be recognized internationally for achieving Universal Salt Iodization – an outstanding result indeed.
The creation by the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs of a special unit for orphans and vulnerable children and the launch of the national Plan of Action for Orphans and vulnerable children are other major developments.
These efforts are real and concrete. However most indicators underscore that progress is too slow to make Nigeria a place fit for children. Today in Nigeria, millions of children are still undernourished; millions are out of schools and left without adequate health care. Millions are deprived of their basic rights because of poverty, lack of infrastructures and lack of investment in basic services. Currently Nigeria contributes 85% of the global burden of wild polio virus at a time when Polio is being “kicked out” of many countries and being eradicated in the world.
Every year, one million children under five years of age die for reasons that could be prevented. So I call on all leaders to make efforts to reduce infant, child and maternal mortality because this situation is not acceptable and should not persist.
Funds from the oil windfall should be set aside for these specific child focus interventions for the future of Nigeria depends on her children.
I appeal to the Federal Government, the State and the local Governments to invest the necessary resources to ensure education for all, efficient health services, provision of water and sanitation to all communities and protection of all children from violence and abuse. These will make Nigeria fit for children.
I call on the all the States of the Federation to pass the Child Right Act as only 18 States have enacted this bill so far.
UNICEF is committed to supporting the Federal and the State Governments in Nigeria to ensure the realization of children’s rights and the implementation of concrete programmes, which will address the situation of children and women.
So let’s build also a Nigeria fit for children, which will be a Nigeria fit for everyone.