The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is supporting Kaduna State Government to eliminate child abuse by 2030 in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Mr Dennis Onoise, Child Protection Specialist, UNICEF Kaduna, made this known in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Kaduna on Wednesday.
He said that strengthening the state’s child protection systems allowed a broad approach to manage child protection-related issues.
Onoise described child protection system as “formal and informal structures, functions and capacities assembled to prevent and respond to violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation of children”.
He noted that for a very long time, there had not been a holistic child protection system or structure that provides a holistic approach to protecting the interest of the child in the state.
He said that most of the civil society groups and the different organisations working to address children’s issues in the state focused on different areas; some child justice administration, others child sexual violence.
“We realised that this ad hoc and fragmented way of supporting children is not helping to achieve the overall objectives of protecting children from neglect, violence, exploitation and abuse.
“So, in July, we introduced Child Protection System Strengthening in Kaduna State as a way of managing children protection intervention to achieve maximum result.
“This, we consider to be very comprehensive, because within it we have child justice administration, legal framework and policy that supports communities and societies to ensure that abused children get justice.
“There are other services, such as raising awareness among community members to prevent the abuse of children sexually, physically, psychologically and emotionally.
“The systems equally look at public financing and push government to allocate more resources and funds to adequately respond to child protection issues,” Onoise said.
The specialist noted that when government failed to provide funding to respond to issues of prevention of child abuse, it spent more when abuse occurred.
He said that a recent survey on economic burden of violence on children in the country showed that Nigeria lost about N1.2 trillion annually for not budgeting for child protection.
“This is because, children that are abused are left unproductive; those on the streets with nobody to cater for them are wasting and their future bleak because they are not having the opportunity to be educated.
“So, UNICEF is supporting the state to put systems in place to ensure that when people abuse children, there is enough response.
“We will also support the state to set up a Child Protection Information Management System that will help to manage data of children suffering from all kinds of abuse, neglect and exploitation across the state.
“This will enable us to monitor and determine the number of abused children that are receiving services and how many need services,” Onoise said.
He commended the state government for the positive response to put systems in place for children, saying that UNICEF was working in four pilot local government areas and had achieved much in the last five months.
He said that it took UNICEF one and a half or two years to get government to create budget lines for child protection in other states but noted that this feat was achieved in three months in Kaduna State.
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“The government has equally approved the establishment of three family courts to ensure full implementation of the state’s Child Welfare Law.
“The government had also appointed 10 judicial counsels to work with Ministry of Human Services and Social Development to ensure that any child that is abused, gets justice.
“This is a huge achievement for us. We are very excited as child protection people; we are very excited as UNICEF and as people working with Kaduna State to strengthen child protection systems.
“This will not have been possible if not because we find the right people in government who are passionate about addressing the plight of children,” Onoise said.