Nigeria is Africa’s most populated country and with an estimated 130 million inhabitants, one in every five Africans is a Nigerian. The 2006 United Nations Human Development Index puts Nigeria at 159 out of 177 countries, with 70.8 per cent of the population living on less than one dollar a day and 92.4 per cent on less than two dollars a day (Human Development Report, 2006).
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has had a base in Nigeria since 1953, working with the government and other partners to address the rights of Nigerian children. Today, the country programme is present in all 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory in the areas of health and nutrition, basic education, water and sanitation, protection and planning and communication issues. All the programmes are represented in at least three Local Government Areas (LGAs) in every state. UNICEF provides technical guidance to the Government of Nigeria at its three levels of administration on the development and provision of services for children and on adopting appropriate policy and legal measures to ensure the fulfilment of child rights. UNICEF implements projects in partnership with the government and non-governmental organisations, all of which include complementary social mobilisation and community-based communication activities.
The Survival and Early Child Care programme addresses the survival rights of children from conception to five years of age, with the aim of reducing under-five mortality rates by 20 per cent by 2007. High levels of child mortality and morbidity in Nigeria can be prevented with simple, affordable measures such as immunisation, micronutrient supplementation, exclusive breastfeeding and improved nutritional practices, the use of insecticide-treated bed nets and the prevention of HIV transmission from parent to child.
Currently, only 13 per cent of children aged 12 months are considered fully immunised against the major childhood diseases (2003 Coverage Survey) and only six per cent of children underfive sleep under an insecticide treated bed net to protect them against Malaria.
Survival and Early Child Care comprises the following projects:
UNICEF’s Basic Education programme aims to contribute to at least a 20 per cent improvement in net primary school enrolment, retention and attainment rates. The child-friendly schools
component aims to improve the school environment as well as the style and quality of teaching in schools. Emphasis is also placed on increasing access and achievement for girls in school, especially in the north of Nigeria. Closely linked with the education programme is the provision of water and proper sanitation facilities in schools, to improve child health and to encourage girls to continue their education. The net primary school attendance ratios in Nigeria are 66 per cent for boys and 58 per cent for girls. These figures mask the regional variations. The net attendance ratios for secondary education are 38 for boys and 33 for girls respectively.
The Basic Education projects are:
Water, Sanitation and Hygiene
The Water, Sanitation and Hygiene programme aims to create 8800 safe water sources by the end of 2007, including 1200 sources in schools and learning areas. The programme combines the installation of new water points with the upgrading and renovation of existing facilities. UNICEF supports the installation of sanitary facilities in communities and schools and the programme will have benefited at least 4000 communities by the end of 2007. Hygiene education in schools and in communities is also an important component of this programme. Water and hygienic sanitation not only ensure optimal child health and survival but also provide a major boost to school attendance rates – especially for girls. Providing safe water sources is vital forcommunity development as a whole, shortening the amount of time that women spend walking every day to fetch and carry water.
On average, only 48 per cent of the total population of Nigeria has access to an improved water supply. Only 44 per cent of the population uses adequate sanitary facilities. In some schools in Nigeria, as many as 500 children have been found sharing one latrine.
The Water, Sanitation and Hygiene projects are:
Protection and Participation
Child protection and participation programmes include both advocacy and technical support to the government in order to ensure Nigeria meets the obligations of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. An important achievement was the adoption of the Child Rights Act in 2003 at the federal level. Today, UNICEF Nigeria encourages all 36 states to pass the Child Rights Act in order to address the situations of trafficked children, child labourers and orphaned and vulnerable children. UNICEF also collaborates with the National Youth Service Corps, training young people as peer educators to inform and spread messages on HIV/AIDS prevention.
On average, only 30 per cent of children under five have their births registered in Nigeria. UNICEF estimates that eight million children are at risk of being trafficked or exploited for labour. The HIV prevalence rate is 4.4 per cent (Federal Ministry of Health, 2006), with only 18.3 per cent of adolescents aged 15-24 having correct knowledge about HIV transmision (National HIV/ AIDS & Reproductive Health Survey, 2003).
The Protection and Participation projects are:
Planning and Communication
Planning and communication is a broad programme that supports the different programme areas with surveys and evaluations to monitor basic indicators. The Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) is used by UNICEF globally to measure changes in the situation of children and women. UNICEF also advises the government on preparing and responding to potential emergencies.
All programme areas include community communication, education and social mobilisation elements, including awareness raising campaigns. For these activities, information materials such as leaflets, brochures, calendars and charts are produced to promote messages. UNICEF also establishes partnerships with national electronic and print media to educate the public on children’s rights. Regular information on UNICEF programmes is shared through press events, workshops and information materials.
The Planning and Communication projects are: