By Ezra Ukanwa, Abuja

A civil society organisation, ActionAid Nigeria, AAN, on Friday, called on the Federal Government, FG, including other critical stakeholders to take affirmative steps to address the killing of twins, perinatal health issues, among other cultural anomalies in the country.

The Social mobilization manager, ActionAid, Adewale Adeduntan, made this call during a media facility tour of Vine Heritage Home, VHH, in Abuja.

Speaking passionately about the intervention made to add value to the lives of the children and activities of the Foundation, he said the organization would continue to support the Foundation and also continue its advocacy on the practice in FCT.

He said the practice is partly based on sheer illiteracy, and poor access to health care facilities.

He said: “We believe the termination of the lives of children during or after childbirth is inimical to the concept which justifies the sanctity of life and all contextually acceptable global laws.

“The Universal Declaration of Human Rights statement affirming the dignity and rights of all human beings, adopted by the United Nations (UN) in 1948, is based on principles expressed in the UN Charter concerned with civil and political rights and the other with economic, social, and cultural rights.

“Infanticide is practised by communities across the FCT, including the native Bassa Komo, Gbariyamma and Ganagana tribes, who believe that if a mother dies from childbirth or while nursing a baby, the baby is evil and must therefore die.

“Infanticide remains a practice shrouded in secrecy, about which few community members will speak openly. Babies are buried (alive) with their deceased mothers, poisoned (with a mixture of deadly plants and herbs), starved, sacrificed, and suffocated..

“This practice of infanticide is caused by traditional beliefs, illiteracy and exacerbated by high maternal mortality rates due to poor access to health services.

“All of these caught the attention of ActionAid, and in partnership with the European Union (EU) and the Vine Heritage Home, put together the MATAI project.

“As we wind down on the MATAI project (2019-2022), ActionAid calls on all the arms of government, particularly the relevant Ministries, Departments & Agencies, International NGOs and Media Outfits, Child Protection Network (CPN), National Association of Child Rights Advocates (NACRAN), and the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACERWC), to be more proactive in addressing perinatal health issues and its attendant killing of twins, multiple births, and other vulnerable children.

“Nigeria’s 40 million women of childbearing age (between 15 and 49 years of age) suffer a disproportionally high level of health issues surrounding birth which invariably heighten infanticide.

“Budgetary allocations in primary health care have been high in recent years but the proportion of patients able to access appropriate treatment especially in the hinterlands remains low.

“So, if access to Antenatal Care and Post natal Care still constitute challenge, we will continue to have threat to child protection as far as infanticide is concerned in the FCT and other parts of the country where it is still being discreetly practised.”

On his part, the Head of Operation, VHHF, Pastor Stephen Olusola, said the Foundation has the responsibility to rescue children from about 65 communities from the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, and they started their missionary work in the late 90s, which they discovered that there are group of people in the FCT, which are the Bassa-Komo tribe, where the lives of children are still in danger due to cultural beliefs.

He said, although the foundation had faced series of difficulties, but the Mobilizing Action Towards the Abolition of Infanticide, MATAI, project has greatly helped the foundation to reintegrate the children back to their parents.

He said the aim of the MATAI foundation is to address the root cause of the problem and make the community people understand that no child is evil.

He disclosed that so far out of 178 ostracized children, with the help of MATAI project, the foundation had been able to reunite about 18 children with their family.

He said: “Our aim is to go to the root of the problem and that is the focus of the MATAI project. It is to go to the root of the problem, talk to the local people and bring them to understand the fact that no child is evil. And, I want to tell you that even before the close of the project, we already have a lot of success, a lot of good stories to tell because I actually don’t have children who are 18-19 years with me and the parents never came back before the MATAI project.

But, as we continually engage them, trying to open their minds to change their worldview, many of them are coming back to say: “where is the child I gave you years back? Can we see them? First, they identify, then the next level is that can we have them back? And to the glory of God today, as just day before yesterday we have reunited 18 children back to their family, and many more will still go and the more children that reunite, the more story they have to tell that no chid is evil.”

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