Nigeria: In Five Years, Nigeria Records 14% Reduction in Child Marriage - Report

Child marriages remain a problem in across Africa.

Apart from the reduction in child marriage, the MICS results reveal that Nigeria has also made progress in child mortality.

A new report- Nigeria's National Immunisation Coverage Survey (NICS), has revealed that the country has recorded a significant decrease in the number of children who get married before the age of 18.

The latest report said the statistics reduced from the 44 per cent given in 2016 to 30 per cent in 2021.

This was revealed at the launch of Nigeria's 2021 Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) and NICS report, implemented by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) in collaboration with UNICEF.

The survey measures the government's progress towards national commitments and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Apart from the reduction in child marriage, the MICS results also revealed that Nigeria has also made progress in child mortality which decreased from one in eight children dying before their fifth birthday (MICS 2016) to one in 10 children (MICS 2021).

It also reported significant progress in exclusive breastfeeding and birth registration rates, noting that the exclusive breastfeeding rate increased from 24 per cent to 34 per cent, while nearly 60 per cent of Nigerian children are now registered at birth with civil authorities, compared to 47 per cent in 2016.

In the keynote address, Nigeria's Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, who was represented by the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, noted that the outcome of the report will enable the government to re-strategise and scale up vaccination efforts to ensure total coverage of the entire population in need.

She assured that the government will continue to strengthen all sectors of the economy to ensure a balanced development at the national and sub-national levels of governance.

In his comments, the Statistician-General of the Federation and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of NBS, Adeyemi Adeniran said: "The 2021 Nigeria MICS-NICS report provides evidence-based data for all key stakeholders to prioritise quality services for children and women with higher efficiency and effectiveness.

"The information collated will inform policies aimed at social inclusion of the most vulnerable population, help identify disparities, and allow for international comparability."

Low immunisation in the North

Meanwhile, the finance minister noted that the survival rates of children depend on access to immunisation with the largest proportion of low immunisation in Nigeria recorded in the Northern region.

She said: "Honourable ministers, heads of development partners, and distinguished ladies and gentlemen it is instructive to state that improving the survival rates among children depends on their access to routine immunisation.

"Despite the tenacity of the permanent health care workers conducting routine immunisation across the country, we still have low immunisation coverage with the largest proportion emanating from the northern part of our country.

On the MICS survey 2021, she acknowledged that "there has been conspicuous improvement in the coverage from 34 per cent in 2016 to 57 per cent," adding that the target is to ensure that every child benefits from life-saving vaccines across the 774 local governments in the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory.

Government's effort

Mrs Ahmed also highlighted the government's efforts in mitigating the effect of COVID-19 in 2020 and in strengthening the Nigerian health sector.

She said: "As a corollary to this, the government of Nigeria in 2020 mitigated the effect of COVID-19 pandemic by developing the Nigeria economic sustainability plan, which the federal executive council approved in June 2020.

"The plan earmarks N10.3 billion for the health sector to fast track the implementation of the national water supply, sanitation and hygiene programme.

"Similarly, a sum of N199 billion was earmarked to develop a robust health care system to withstand future shocks. Other economic stimulus package measures introduced included the additional N100 billion naira intervention fund as healthcare loans to key pharmaceutical companies and healthcare particularly practitioners intended to expand or upgrade their capacities.

"In furtherance of our efforts as government, we have identified key local pharmaceutical companies that will be granted funding facilities to support the procurement of raw materials and equipment required to boost local drug production and also the provision of credit assistance for the healthcare industry to help the potential increase in demand for healthcare services as well as products."

She added that the national social registers, as well as the state social registers, have been expanded, saying "over 3 million Nigerians have been benefiting since 2020, from N20,000 transfers to the poor and vulnerable households."

Data for informed decision

The UNICEF representative in Nigeria, Peter Hawkins, in his comment, noted that the findings of the survey will help guide the federal and state governments to identify "where more support and funds need to be wisely allocated and utilised."

"Data is critical for effective budgeting and decision making - and the data from these surveys together paint a picture of the situation for children and families in Nigeria," he said.

The Statistician-General also added that "As we build back better from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the MICS-NICS survey provides evidence to shape interventions and focus resources in a way that helps children and their families reach their full potential.

"Using the data to monitor progress towards our collective commitments to children and families, and inform future action is critical if we must leave no one behind."

About the MICS Survey

The MICS Survey is a household survey developed by UNICEF to assist countries in filling data gaps for monitoring human development indicators in general and the situation of children and women, in particular.

It has evolved over the years to respond to changing data needs, expanding from 28 indicators in the first round in 1999 to 200 in its current sixth.

The NBS implemented MICS which provides data on child mortality, health, nutrition, education, child and social protection, women's health care and empowerment, water, sanitation and hygiene, while NICS assesses vaccination coverage provided through the health systems.

Indicators produced for the first time include social transfer, household energy use, child functioning and foundational learning skills.

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