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Providing for children is a collective responsibility says UNICEF on the Day of the African Child.

ABUJA, 16 June 2010— On this Day of the African Child, UNICEF celebrates the partnership it has with the Government of Nigeria to ensure that conditions are in place to ensure that children can enjoy their right to a safe and happy childhood and develop to their full potential as human beings and as citizens.

With the theme “Planning and budgeting for children: our collective responsibility,” the Day highlights the fact that it takes commitment and resources to ensure a nation’s children are healthy, educated and protected—and that the share of public investments allocated to children reflects the priority society accords them.

The Government of Nigeria demonstrates its commitment to children by the resources that it allocates to meet the MDGs. For example, in the period 2006–2008, 59.4 billion Naira was allocated by the Office of the Senior Special Assistant to the President on the MDGs to the health MDGs, and almost the entire amount was expended. Of the 47.1 billion Naira allocated to addressing the education MDGs, 70% was expended. Continued increases in investments by the MDGs will result in improved development outcomes for children.

To maximize resources for children, UNICEF works towards creating consensus around the need to invest more in children, and is helping build capacities in sector planning so that children’s interests are taken into account. The recently published National Health Accounts, for example, calls for increased investment in the primary health care sector and this is also reflected in the Strategic Health Sector Plan developed by the Federal and state governments.

Central and local government budgets are tools to achieve sustainable progress in the fulfillment of children’s rights, but challenges remain in ensuring that allocations are disbursed on time and are spent effectively, in line with the desired development outcomes. A sector investment profile study conducted for the Nigeria Water and Sanitation Monitoring Platform, for example, revealed that in the period 2000–2007 in 12 states, the water sector received 7% of the states’ budgets, of which 3% was disbursed. Similarly, the sanitation sector received an allocation of 1.56% of which 0.6% was spent. 

Monitoring is key to tracking whether planning and budgeting have an effect on the ground, and monitoring requires data, which are still weak. “Nonetheless,” says Dr. Suomi Sakai, UNICEF Representative in Nigeria, “with just simple information, everyone in the community can monitor budget expenditure: school committees can check to see that promised allocations arrive and are properly spent; communities can make sure that pledged facilities like schools and health posts are well built and adequately staffed and stocked. Providing for children is a collective responsibility.”

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