Calabar — United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) has said about 15 million children in Nigeria are seriously in need of basic support in various aspects of their lives.
The disclosure was made by the UNICEF Chief of Field Office in Enugu, Ibrahim Conteh, while delivering his remarks at the opening session of an event to mark the 30th anniversary of the inauguration of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Speaking with journalists at event tagged: "Youth Talk for CRC @ 30" with the theme: "The Naija We Want - Improving Access to Quality Education for Youths," which took place yesterday in Calabar, Conteh said: "UNICEF is supporting the government in their budgeting process to do public finance management to ensure that the issues of children are being addressed when they are doing their budgeting. Our aim is to see that every child everywhere deprived is supported.
"There are over 15 million children in Nigeria and every child needs support in basic services: in education, in health, in nutrition, etc part of our core commitments is actually to ensure that wherever the child is, every child needs all the basic services and our support to every child is the same. Though we try to focus on the more deprived areas, we are supporting up to five million children in Nigeria directly. We also work with the government."
Conteh said UNICEF would continue to provide support to government at all levels to ensure that issues affecting the welfare and the future of children are adequately addressed.
"We give support to government for their strategic plan. In UNICEF, our mandate is for children and we support children in different aspects like in water and sanitation, nutrition, education, health, HIV/AID and others. We also support government in public finance management in making sure that the government is able to provide sufficient budget for children's issues."
So, we engage a lot with government during the budgeting process, sector plan to make sure that the issues of children are embedded in the government strategic plan," Conteh said.
He added that facts available to UNICEF based on comprehensive deprivation analysis throughout the country indicate that 15 states, which were tagged as focus states were considered states with highest social burden.
"We did a very comprehensive deprivation analysis in the whole country and we came up with 15 states that we called focus states. These are states we believe are burdened on all social aspects. For us, Cross River State is one of those and most of our programmes are really implemented here. We also have the delivery as one which is the entire UN agencies coming together to provide support in Cross River State.
"We also recently have the spotlight initiative that is supported by some donors that is focused on gender-based violence. In Cross River State, there are some local government areas we have issues of violence against children, women and this programme is here to provide support to government to address those issues. We have the pilot project on child friendly initiative," Conteh said.
Delivering her welcome address, the Permanent Secretary, Cross River State Ministry of Women Affairs, represented by Mrs. Helen Ofem of the Ministry of Sustainable Development, commended UNICEF, UK-AID and Cross River State Government for ensuring that the state provided the needed environment for the celebration of CRC at 30 in Calabar, the state capital.
Also speaking the UNICEF Communication Officer, Enugu Zonal Office, Ijeoma Onuoha-Ogwe, said celebrating the epoch-making event with school children from different schools in the state was to enable them to speak up for themselves concerning what they wanted Nigeria to be in future.
During an interactive session with the children who were given opportunity to speak, the children said they wanted a better Nigeria that would be good for their future.
A student of Government Technical College along Mayne Avenue, Jane Oban, said lack of basic educational facility such as laboratory, technology laboratories, libraries and science teachers.
Some others who spoke also mentioned emotional and physical violence as some of the challenges they face, and would be happy that the challenges are addressed.
A former deputy Speaker of Cross River State Youth Children's Parliament, Joseph Bassey, said young people should be the freedom to choose any career of their choice.