By Dennis Agbo, Abakaliki
The â€˜Aâ€™ field office of the United Nations Childrenâ€™s Fund, UNICEF, has commenced moves aimed at mobilising journalists in the 10 states of its coverage area in the South East, some states in South-South and Benue towards using their media for advocacy and defence of the children.
In a workshop at Uyo, Akwa Ibom state, the UN agency gathered 20 journalists selected across the coverage area in a three-day intensive workshop to sharpen their skills in the best practice of reporting activities that concern the abuse, welfare and promotion of childrenâ€™s well being in Nigeria.
Organised by UNICEF in collaboration with Akwa Ibom State Broadcasting Corporation, aspects of the workshop dwelt on advocacy and child rights reporting for effective media programming. It involved brainstorming on human interest stories that border on emancipation of children, communicating childâ€™s plight, interventions in emergencies, child protection and survival, success stories on child interventions, among others.Â
The Communications Officer-Media, Advocacy and External Relations for Unicef â€˜Aâ€™ field office, Mrs. Ijeoma Onuoha-Ogwe urged Nigeria journalists to try harder in contributing to the improvement on child care through their reportage, stating that anybody who recruits any person less than 18 years, transferred or haboured same for the purpose of exploitation either within or outside the country had violated the provisions of the Child Rights Act.
Against media reports which quoted Mrs. Ogwe to haveÂ said that over 2000Â under-aged children from the South Eastern part of Nigeria are trafficked monthly to South Africa and other parts of the globe, she rather said that child trafficking should be discouraged because it deprives the children of their childhood, exposes them to violence and all kinds of abuse. SheÂ therefore appealed to government at all levels, especially in the zone to take the issue of child trafficking seriously because of the adverse economic and social effect it will have in the society.
The UNICEF official advised government to hasten the passage of Child Rights bills in various states to ensure that the rights of children were protected, adding that childrenâ€™s rights are integral to the mandate of UNICEF.
The workshop revealed that UNICEF works to ensure that every child regardless of gender, ethnicity, socioeconomic status has access to quality education because it believes that education is a fundamental human right, a key factor in restoring normalcy, helps to protect children from harm and provides children and their families with hope.
The agency report reveals that in 2006, for the first time in recent history, the total number of annual deaths among children under-five fellÂ from 10 million to 9.7 million. In 2007, the figure dropped to 9.2 million. However, many countries still have high levels of child mortality, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, and in recent years have made little or no progress in reducing the number of child deaths.
â€œChild survival rates show improvement but this is slow. Estimates for 2007 indicate that 9.2 million children die before their fifth birthday, mostly from preventable causes.Â Vaccinations and the expansion of basic health services and an integrated community based approach have reduced deaths and should be pursued more vigorously, the report stated.
It equally disclosed that in each year, nearly four million children die within the first month of life â€“ the newborn period, with three quarters of these occurring in the first seven days. Given that these new born 121 deaths account for 40 per cent of all under-five deaths, UNICEF highlights the importance of improving neonatal survival, essential if MDG 4 is to be reached. It also advocates for strengthening the continuum of care in time (mothersâ€“newborn-child) and place (household-community-health facility), both of which are key to achieving the MDGs.Â â€œA healthy mother is more likely to have a healthy child,â€ it said, emphasising the need for training, deploying and supporting skilled and paid health workers at the community level.