By Bukar Bolori
United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has decried that violence is now perpetrated against one in four Nigerian children.
The UN organisation also lamented that since the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic, one in three Nigerian girls are sexually abused.
A statement on Thursday by UNICEF’s Country Director, Peter Hawkins, said: “Violence is perpetrated against one in four Nigerian children – and one in three Nigerian girls are sexually abused. This has only increased during the pandemic.”
He lamented that it has been a challenging year for everyone with the COVID-19 pandemic – not least of all, Nigeria’s children, commending efforts at all levels of Nigerian government and society to protect education, health, and protection services in response to the impact of the pandemic on children.
He said: “As we rightfully celebrate Nigerian children today, let us also remember that the COVID-19 crisis has been a child rights crisis – in Nigeria and around the world.
“Poverty is rising, inequality is growing, and the pandemic has often disrupted the essential services that secure the health, education and protection of children and young people.”
Hawkins who lamented that the longer the pandemic goes on, the more intense the impact on women and children, however said: “On this Nigerian Children’s Day, let us all agree that we cannot let one crisis compound another.”
He said: “Today of all days, we must commit to reinforce the protection mechanisms for all children.”
He added that one thing that has been learnt from the pandemic is that education takes place not only in schools – children can and should learn both in and out of school.
He said a learning continuum is critical, so that all children continue to get an education irrespective of their situation, location, or the pandemic.
Hawkins admitted that Nigerian children are resilient, talented and aspire to do great things. “And it is our responsibility to give them the platform and encouragement to do just that.”
He said: “We know that protecting children and investing in women and families is not only the right thing to do – it has proven to be a sound economic choice and a cost-effective tool for national development.
As we celebrate our children today, we must act in their best interests and deploy innovative solutions to fast-track learning and health services to build back better, for every Nigerian child.”