By Chioma Obinna
To commemorate this year’s Children’s Day, Mothers and Marginalised Advocacy Centre, MAMA Centre, has called for sustained proactive policy environment for the adequate social, cognitive, and physical development of Nigerian children.
Making the call in a press statement signed by the Executive Director, MAMA Centre, Barrister Ola Onyegbula who noted that despite the fact that the Child Right Act provided legal backing for the sustainable social, cognitive and physical development of every Nigerian child in respective of gender expressed concerns that a higher proportion of Nigerian children are bedevilled by malnutrition, social insecurity, early child marriage, and child labour.
“As malnutrition remains a serious setback to the socio-economic development of the country, high incidence of Severe Acute Malnutrition has continued to exacerbate children’s susceptibility to deadly infections, slow recovery from illness retards physical and cognitive development.
“We recall that an estimated 2.5 million Nigerian children under-5 suffer from Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) annually, exposing nearly 420,000 children under-5 to early death from common childhood illnesses such as diarrhoea, pneumonia, and malaria.
“We specifically note greater concern Section 3 of the Act, which mandates every Government in Nigeria to reduce infant and child mortality rate; ensure the provision of necessary medical assistance and health care services to all children with an emphasis on the development of primary health care; provide for the child the best attainable state of health; ensure the provision of adequate nutrition and safe drinking water; ensure the provision of good hygiene and environmental sanitation; combat disease and malnutrition within the framework of primary health care through the application of appropriate technology.
“In spite of various provisions in the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the Child Right Act 2003 frowning at early marriages as a fundamental violation of human rights, we are perturbed at the growing prevalence of child marriage in some parts of the country with resultant early childbirth decreased development and social isolation.”
They further condemned what they described as the deliberate delay in adoption and passage into law the Child Right Act in many states across the nation.
“We must reiterate that Nigeria has the highest prevalence of obstetric fistula in the world, with between 400,000 and 800,000 women living with the problem and about 20,000 new cases each year; and 90% cases are untreated. This implies that about 55 women are afflicted by obstetric fistula every day. This is worsened by poor access to sexual and reproductive health services, including family planning and maternal health services by child bride.”
“We demand immediate domestication and implementation of the National Policy on Food and Nutrition with a holistic Strategic Plan of Action to guide the identification, design, and implementation of nutrition intervention at state levels.
“We call for concerted efforts by all levels of governments, National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP), civil society, Community Base Organisations, Faith-Based Organisations to effectively combat child trafficking scourge and abuses. “We also call for the strengthened criminal justice system to checkmate abuses and violation against child right with strict implementation by all levels of government. We further call for improved access to education and eliminating gender gaps in education, proper individual orientation, mass public awareness, and sensitization on the provisions of the Child Right Act.”