On the Day of the African Child, UNICEF calls for a Nigeria fit for children
ABUJA, 16 June 2009 – On this Day of the African Child, UNICEF called on governments, civil society, communities and families to heed the call of the African Union to make Nigeria and all African countries “fit for children” by protecting children’s health and preventing practices that threaten children’s survival.
“Survival is not in the least guaranteed for a Nigerian child,” said Deputy Representative Robert Limlim today. “Of every 1000 children born here, 157 will die before their fifth birthday.” Because Nigeria has the largest population in Africa, its statistics translate into large numbers: over a million children under five die here each year. An improvement in Nigeria means a noticeable improvement in Africa as a whole.
The Deputy Representative urged governments to take a lead role in Africa by pursuing their efforts to create an effective primary health care network throughout the country, backed by strong health promotion, so that communities and families have access to the information, skills and resources they need to make informed choices and come up with solutions to survival and development challenges.
It takes more than health care and health promotion to help children survive: if families know about good nutrition, they can save their children from stunting and wasting; garbage collection, clean water and proper sanitation stop children getting malaria and diarrhea; children whose mothers are educated are less likely to die than children whose mothers are not; and birth registration makes it possible to know why children died so that citizens can find solutions to boost children’s chance of survival.
An improvement in child survival is key to meeting the Millennium Development Goals due in less than six years, as it is central to achieving Nigeria’s Vision 20/20, which promises a better economic future.
The African Union has stressed that the well-being of Africa's children depends first and foremost on the well-being of their families and communities. Indeed, economic hardship puts children at greater risk of exploitative labour and sexual practices, including trafficking, that can be life-threatening.
“Child rights laws are an essential step in protecting children’s survival,” stressed the UNICEF Deputy Representative Robert Limlim. “They give governments and civil society a framework on which to build a country fit for children.”