The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, UNHCR, has on Wednesday called for peace in Africa to alleviate the plight of Cameronian refugee children living in the Ogoja area of Cross River State.
The Head of the UNHCR Sub Office Ogoja, Mr. Tesfaya Bekele, made this clarion call at the funfair treat to observe the annual International Day of the Africa Child (IDAC) marked every June 16. It was held at the Ogoja Local Government Area (LGA) Headquarters and powered by UNHCR and Caritas Nigeria.
According to Bekele, it has become paramount to recognise the hardship some of the refugee children have been through due to the conflict in Cameroon, their place of origin.
He emphasised, “As we celebrate the African child today, it is important to come together and advocate for peace in Africa so that children can grow in their places of origin and the full protection, love and support of their parents and community.”
He expressed UNHCR’s gratitude to the Federal Government of Nigeria, Cross River State Government, the Ogoja LGA as well as chiefs in the community for their unwavering support and hospitality.
The UNHCR representative, however, bemoaned that conflict brings a lot of adversity for everyone, “But it is much worse for children. So, we are grateful for everyone who has made it possible for those fleeing conflict to be welcomed here”.
Marked every June 16, the IDAC is in honour of children killed protesting poor quality of their education and demanding their right to be taught in their own language in Soweto South Africa in 1976.
Meanwhile, as children displayed their skills in some of their cultural styles, the Head of the Cross River State Emergency Management Agency (CRSEMA), Mr. Andy Akpotu, described them as talented and positively brilliant.
He, therefore, implored them, “I encourage you to be steadfast, and obedient to your parents and guidance.”
While acknowledging the efforts of the teachers, who prepare the children for the future, Akpotu noted that Cross River State is home to over 38,000 of these refugees, “who enjoy the freedom and safety of living side-by-side with their host communities”.
In his remarks, the Chairman of the Ogoja LGA, who was represented by Mrs. Ishabor, commended the organisers of the programme, UNHCR and Caritas Nigeria, for the enviable initiative for the children.
Among participants were children and pupils from within the Ogoja LGA and local authorities alongside refugee children from the Adagom Settlements who attend the same schools with the locals.
In their speeches, the children unanimously requested, “Our dream is a dream of sunrise and sunset, a dream of children playing in the field without threats of violence. I am an African child, ready to blossom; teach me to think like the star within me.”
The children spiced up the day with an array of shows including a stage play depicting Cameroonian cultures, dance performances, a runway fashion exhibition of different African countries with short historical facts about the countries, calisthenics among other renditions.