As survivors of infanticide express joy
By Gabriel Ewepu – Abuja
A humanitarian organisation, ActionAid Nigeria, AAN, and the European Union, EU, Thursday, flagged off over N200 million construction of new Vine Heritage Home Complex as part of intervention to provide better and larger facility to accommodate 157 children who have been rescued from infanticide practice by 57 communities in five Area Councils of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT.
The EU Ambassador to Nigeria, Ketil Karlsen, performed the ground-breaking at VHH’s new site located in Chikuku community of Gwagwalada Area Council.
According to the EU envoy and ActionAid Country Director, Ene Obi, the project will be completed in 32 weeks with funding to gulp €495, 000 (N204, 964, 000), part of which will be used to build dormitories and classrooms for the ostracized children.
Meanwhile, Head of Operations, VHH, Pastor Olusola Steven, who narrated that rescuing of the ostracized children began in 2004, which currently 157 children are taking care of after they were rescued from being killed by their kinsmen at infancy, whom they tagged as evil children due to the predicament they found themselves during birth as twin, triplet, albino, deformed, growing of upper teeth, and losing mother.
Steven further stated that their concern and action to rescue the children from being killed was to save life, prove that the children were not evil but normal human beings, to add value to their lives and make them useful to the society, to sensitise and eradicate traditional believes that is crime to humanity, and also to reunite the children with their original families, hence no adoption is allowed.
The ActionAid Nigeria Country Director’s address opined that the prevalence of harmful practices against children in Nigeria poses enormous challenges to the realisation of the rights of the child as stipulated in national, regional and global legal instruments.
She said: “The legendary efforts of Mary Slessor who pioneered the campaigns and advocacy for the stoppage of the killing of twins remain a reference point in the historical trajectory on child’s rights promotion and protection in Nigeria.
Infanticide is one of the harmful practices is known to be practised in different parts of Nigeria. However, the FCT by far has the greatest number of communities practising infanticide and is the most documented going by informal statistics.
“ActionAid Nigeria (AAN) in collaboration with the EU and Vines Heritage Home thus welcomes the groundbreaking ceremony of the new complex of VHH which is an offshoot of the project which aims to end the killing of newborn babies, especially twins, in the Federal Capital Territory.
The complex which is due to be delivered in 32 weeks will provide decent shelter to ostracized children in FCT who are in danger of being killed due to cultural practices.
“The project is funded both by the European Union and AAN and we have been working closely with the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), traditional rulers, area councils, and the communities.
One of the specific objectives of the project is to ensure the implementation and monitoring of existing legal and policy frameworks that address infanticide practices in the FCT.”
She also explained that “Beyond providing shelter, the project aims to raise awareness in the FCT on infanticide practices, especially among practicing communities and to establish mechanisms to safeguard unborn babies and infants who are vulnerable.
Through the initiatives, AAN and partners will be reaching out to community leaders, birth attendants, caregivers, media organisations, as well as various government establishments such as the National Assembly, FCT Social Development Secretariat, Child Rights Implementation Committees, and National Population Commission.”
She also added that “Already, we have trained 75 traditional birth attendants across various communities using the Community Health Influencers, Promoters and Services (CHIPS) with the manual of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA).
“We have also conducted a baseline survey and also acquired a piece of land for VHH to enable us to build a school and dormitory with other facilities, which is the reason we are here today.
However, she (Obi) condemned infanticide describing it as a practice against natural justice, equity, and a good conscience and hence not one that should be encouraged by any reasonable mind in modern society.
“It is cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment against children. It also constitutes violence and harmful practice against children considering the provisions of the Child Rights Act 2003”, she said.
She also called for the urgent need for more enlightenment and education, so that the communities would know better.
Also, the EU Ambassador to Nigeria, Ketil Kalsen, said, “Without the Pastor (Steven) and the children he is taking so well care of we would not have a reason to be here today. The quality of any society is first making sure by how we treat the most vulnerable members of our societies.
“My desire for this groundbreaking is we will be able to come around 32 weeks time and see even bigger smiles, the bigger opportunities for those children more than anyone will have.
“For the European Union the rights of a child is the cornerstone of our values and of our societies, and in fact, we will make 2020 a year of putting extra attention on what can be done for children in Nigeria, and what better way to start this is the commissioning, launching and groundbreaking today the new home for Vine Heritage. Unfortunately, there is still some practice in Nigeria and FCT is a case in point where infanticide exists.
“Our assistance together with ActionAid is to support Vine Heritage and creating better opportunities for these children, but not only helping the survivors but also making sure that we reach out to the communities and engage all the different institutions to make sure that once and for all, we can stop this practice forever.
“We are not only initiating construction of a new building but today we are initiating construction of a new culture where infanticide will never be accepted. We will not rest until we see an end to this culture.”
The Chairman, Gwagwalada Area Council, Hon. Adamu Mustapha Danze, who was represented by his Vice Chairman, Comrade Mohammed Kashim, said, “It is a welcomed development by the donor because it is not easy for people to give back to society because you see it has to do with vulnerable children who are likely going to be the future of the country, and it is being located in our Area Council. We are ready to partner with them.”
The Head of Operations, VHH, Olusola Steven, said, “We are happy, excited and elated with this groundbreaking ceremony because it is a dream come through, which if the project is completed will help me to take care of the children properly then the president.
We want to say thank you to the European Union, ActionAid Nigeria, and other of our friends who have assisted us.”
Steven also urged the government to provide healthcare facilities, roads and more sensitization of the communities, which they have started making effort in that direction and should do more.