By Chioma Obinna
â€œWe must put the best interests of children at the heart of every political and social decision making as well as at the centre of our day-to-day activities and engagements. We can build a world favourable for children, if each one of us does his part and considers that the welfare of children is our own responsibility.â€
This is a quotation from Kofi Anan, former Secretary General of the United Nations.
But how true is this quotation in reality? This is the one million dollar question begging for an answer.
Critical observers are still wandering if this quote could be replicated in Nigeria today when our law makers are busy throwing punches to one another at the floor of the National Assembly instead of deliberating on issues that would benefit those they claimed to be representing.
No thanks to the factÂ that Nigeria leaders are still very far from applying this quote as many Nigerian children are still losing their lives to preventable diseases and religious crisis due to lack of budgeting and planning by the government. It is no longer news to say that many Nigerian leaders are corrupt but the impact of their actions have forced many children to the streets since their parents cannot afford to send them to school due to poverty.
Today in Nigeria, children are faced with problem of no potable water, malnutrition, stunted growth, high prevalence of child mortality and child labour, child trafficking amongst others. With the situation on ground, Nigeria indeed, may continue to struggle in dire and difficult circumstances even after more than two decades since the world summit on children in 1990.
Various statistics available have confirmed the plight of Nigerian children. According to a report on the welfare of African children in 2008, 43 per cent of the population in sub- Saharan Africa, Nigeria inclusive lived on less than one dollar per day, 45 per cent of children were not registered at birth from 1999 to 2006, 25 percent of deaths of children each year are due to malaria, 6 per cent of children deaths are due to HIV and AIDS, 5,000 children die before celebrating their 1st birth day, 1 million babies are stillborn each year and another 1 million babies die during their first month of life. Unfortunately, the report noted that 800,000 of these child deaths are preventable.
Also, since Nigeriaâ€™s independence in 1960, there have been series of legal and institutional frameworks for the promotion of childrenâ€™s rights. Some of these include the Convention on the Rights of the Children (CRC), Convention 182 of the International labour Organisation (ILO) on Child Labour amongst others.
Unfortunately, with these legal instruments in place to protect the rights of the children, the will power to implement these has remained a huge problem on the part of the Nigerian Government.
However, Nigeria recently, joined the rest of African countries to celebrate the 2010 Day of the African Child with the theme; â€œPlanning and Budgeting for Children: Our Collective Responsibilityâ€. This day, precisely on 16th June 1976; hundreds of innocent South African children were massacred by the then South African Police. These children were brutally cut down in the cause of their revolt against the then apartheid system they demand freedom from domination and treatment as second â€“ class citizens in their country.
Worst still, although, NGOS, civil society organizations are working towards reducing the increasing number of Orphan and Vulnerable Children (OVC), there efforts is like a drop of water in an ocean as statistics available shows that the number have continue to swell up day in day out. Access to quality education which supposed to a basic right of the child is out of the reach of most Nigerian children.
The Nigerian Government should be reminded as a matter of urgency to consider as priority invest ment in its children to avert grave repercussion of failing to do so.Â Apart from remembering these children, for the Nigerian Government, it should serve as a day on which to soberly, reflect on the sorry state of a Nigerian child, especially for those disadvantaged and who are victims of bad leaderships, religious crisis and societal injustice.
Inspite of the huge burden of the plight of children, no one seems to be bordered about their future when our national assembly has degenerated to a mere wrestling field. Several indices about the state of the Nigerian child have prompted to ask whether there will be future Nigeria, if we lost these children to diseases and other related causes. However, the theme of this yearâ€™s Day of the African Child has reminded governments about planning and budgeting for the well being of the child.
Chairperson,African Committee of experts on the Rights and the Welfare of the Child (ACERWC) Mrs. Agness KoboreÂ OuattaraÂ the rights and the well being of children must be at the heart ofÂ national priorities for poverty eradication and promotion ofÂ development.
â€œElimination of poverty which is a cause of conflict and instability and serious threat to peace that is the main precondition for the growth and development of children in Nigeria should be a priority to the government.
Kabore in a message to mark the day in Lagos argued that lack of resources alone does not explain the problems associated with budgeting and planning for the African child. â€œSeveral factors hinder the design and implementation of programmes geared towards the protection and promotion of the rights and welfare of the child in our continent both at central and operational levels.
Among these are failure to take proper account of certain aspects of child protection in national programs, non- efficient use of resources, lack of participation of children in planning and budgeting for programs, lack of strategic information and statistical data and reliable target on the situation of children in some areas, poor coordination and programmatic, the lack of reliable financial records.
She further noted that â€œAlthough many efforts have already being made by African countries in areas such as education and health, there are still inadequacies in terms of programming and budgeting as regards certain issues that require the protection of vulnerable childrenâ€.
â€œPlanning, which is an important step in the implementation of a programme she said, allows the programming of activities and operations to be performed for children with specific objectives and means within a specific period including the assessment of the cost implications.
This is why the theme of the Day of the African Child of 2010 is timely because it offers opportunities for exchange of ideas and experiences, reflection and advocacy in African on such a fundamental issue that will promote a better improvement of living conditions of children in the continentâ€
Lack or insufficiency of resources cannot justify lack of programmes for children. The political will of Governments, integration of the protection of children in their development programs, the mobilization of Partners, planning and budgeting activities that promote visibility efforts for children are other important elements that should be taken into account in this regard.
Also, the Coordinator of the Child of Child Network, Ngozi Ekwerike said government should recognise that budgeting for children is an integral part of the budgeting process by committing themselves to increasing resources allocation and expenditure towards the realization of children â€˜s right rights and well being.
â€œFor instance, education should be made free and compulsory for all children, free health care, and availability of good and nutritious food. Nigeria leaders, particularly policy makers should take a cue from here.