A global UNICEF report, launched in Abuja yesterday, shows that Nigeria is putting its children at risk of under-development, both physically and mentally, because critical national policies are not providing an adequate foundation for their growth.
The UNICEF report, Early Moments Matter for Every Child, outlines three policies that can give parents the time and resources needed to support their young children’s healthy development.
The recommended policies are: two years of free pre-primary education; six months of paid maternity leave; and four weeks of paid paternity leave. Nigeria currently has just three months of paid maternity leave, only one year of free pre-primary education and no paternity leave at all.
According to The Lancet, Nigeria ranks among the 10 countries with the largest number of children at risk of poor development.
“What we call Early Childhood Development, which includes physical and cognitive support, has a strategic place in the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals,” said Mohamed Fall UNICEF Rep in Nigeria.
“Investing in Early Childhood Development including services to support caregivers, quality pre-primary education and good nutrition will help to secure healthy and productive future generations in Nigeria,” he added.
As well as supporting exclusive breastfeeding, having good Early Childhood Development policies in place will help to improve the overall health and nutrition of a child, enable parents and caregivers to be more responsive to children’s needs and provide greater safety and security. It will also provide improved early learning.