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UNICEF calls for equal care and protection for orphans and vulnerable children as Minister of Women Affairs releases survey results

ABUJA, 15 December 2009—Nearly one quarter of all children in Nigeria —some 17.5 million—are orphans or vulnerable in other ways, according to the results of a survey released by the Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development in Abuja today. These children, said UNICEF Representative Dr. Suomi Sakai at the release event, have the same right to care, education and protection as all other children, whatever the source of their vulnerability.

The survey found that orphans and vulnerable children were more prone to ill health than children in more secure circumstances, had less access to health care and missed meals more frequently, and were more likely to skip school, or not go to school at all.

Significant human and financial resources are needed to meet these children’s needs for care, education, and protection. The global financial crisis and growing food insecurity will make the problem—and the solution—even more difficult. Recognizing the scale of the challenge and making a national commitment to investing in measures to support vulnerable children are essential not only to helping these 17.5 million, but also to preventing even more children from joining their ranks.

One in ten children in Nigeria—about 7.3 million—are orphans. Their care places a great burden on grandparents and extended families, creating, in effect, vulnerable families. Timely interventions by the State are needed to support these families to prevent the situation of the children deteriorating further, says UNICEF.

At the same time, some families are not choosing to protect the newly orphaned, even if they have the means: the survey shows that fully 14% of all orphans in Nigeria are disinherited—deprived of the property bequeathed to them by their parents—by members of their own family.

“It is not surprising,” said the UNICEF Representative, “that the survey shows that children who are vulnerable are much more likely to be unhappy, lonely, frustrated and angry than children who are secure in their families. There are ways to mitigate this, and UNICEF stands by to support government and civil society in their efforts to help these children realize their rights to health, education, equality and protection. We must not forget that these children are the future as well.”

UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.

For more information, please contact
Paula Fedeski: office +234 9 461 6402; mobile +234 803 402 0879;




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