The United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF, has unveiled its new “Nigeria Country Programme,” covering a period of five years, 2023-2027, with the target of ensuring that 10 million children have access to formal or non-formal education.
UNICEF’s Communication Specialist, Dr Geoffery Njoku, who announced this at a two-day media dialogue in Kano, said the fund also targets to provide 4.8 million children with access to learning materials and assist 21 states to scale up foundational literacy and numeracy.
The new programme, follows the conclusion of UNICEF’s 2018-2022 programme in which millions of children were provided access to basic education and 58 million were vaccinated against polio through its Zero-Dose Strategy, covering 100 Local Government Areas and reaching underserved children in 18 states.
Njoku said 30 million children were also vaccinated through integrated campaigns against life-threatening diseases in the last 5 years, while 23 million children also received two doses of Vitamin A in 2022.
Speaking further on major contributions of the concluded programme, he said 7.4 million children under the age of five today have birth registration, adding that 35 states with have domesticated the Child Rights Act.
According to him, 2.8 million children living in conflict affected areas received psychosocial support through the programme, while 25 million children were covered in the National Social Register and 20 million people were now living in certified free of open defecation communities, among other contributions.
On the new programme, Njoku said the vision of UNICEF is to “Ensure the rights of every child in Nigeria, especially the most excluded, to survive, thrive, learn, be protected and develop to her or his full potential, free from poverty, in a safe and sustainable climate and environment.”
He said the fund also targets to ensure that 22 states are using integrated data system for sector planning and 12 states have improved adequacy, efficiency and equity in education finance.
While reeling out the health priorities of UNICEF in the programme, he said it targets to have over 1 million additional children immunized, 15,000 additional community health workers trained, and to ensure that over 1,700 Primary Health Care facilities, out of 3,476, in 14 States meet PHC minimum standards.
He further stated that the programme will ensure that 25 health facilities have functional level 2 newborn units and state-level and national capacities built to prepare and respond to public health emergencies.
He said on water, Sanitation and Hygiene, WASH, the Fund is targeting to ensure that 5 million people have access to basic sanitation services and 2 million people have access to basic water supply services and 500 schools and 250 primary health cares, PHCs, have access to basic WASH services.
Also speaking, UNICEF’s Child Protection Specialist, Hajia Fatima Adamu, called for the establishment of family courts in states where the Child Rights Act has been domesticated to make for easy adjudication on violations of children’s rights.
Adamu lamented that 18 years after Nigeria domesticated the UN Child Rights Convention, Bauchi State is yet to adopt the law while Kano only domesticated the law last Friday on the twilight of the exit of the previous administration.
She also decried the failure of Nigeria to regularly submit reports of Child Rights to the UN Convention, adding that the country last submitted its report in 2020, thirteen years ago, as against the practice of submitting it every five years.
According to her, although 35 states of Nigeria have domesticated the Child Rights Act, the assessment of UNICEF is that the implementation of the law is not where it ought to be, while calling on the states to do more as implementation was currently a challenge.