By Tobias Lengnan Dapam
Save the Children International Nigeria is extremely concerned that the COVID-19 pandemic could turn into a serious child rights crisis in Nigeria, as hundreds of thousands of the most vulnerable children could be exposed to a dangerous mix of extreme poverty, malnutrition and hunger as a result of the virus.
A statement issued yesterday by Amanuel Mamo, Director of Advocacy and Campaigns, Save the Children International, Nigeria, said the socioeconomic impact of the pandemic will push many poor households to turn to desperate measures just to survive.
The statement said children could face increased risk of child labour or sexual exploitation or of child marriage, as families struggle to feed their families.
Save the Children urged the authorities in Nigeria to scale up social protection measures such as provision of cash and food assistance for the most vulnerable children and families, to urgently mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in the country.
Mercy Gichuhi, the Acting Country Director, Save the Children International Nigeria, said:
“As the numbers of COVID-19 cases rise in Nigeria to 782, and the virus is spreading to different States, we are working hard to mitigate the negative impact this will have on the most vulnerable children, especially in fragile communities. Children are seriously affected when parents and caregivers are infected by the virus and taken away for care. We are working closely with the government to support efforts to contain the virus and keep children safe and protected amid the pandemic.”
Ibrahim Maharazu, Speaker, Katsina State Children’s Parliament, said:
“The Corona virus is threatening our right to participation, protection, education and healthy life. I can see a possible increase in child abuse as children from poor households might go to rich people in the community for food. They may be emotionally, physically or sexually exploited in exchange for food and financial support. There are people who take advantage of the poor families and the pandemic. This is very bad for children and it can have a long lasting impact on them. The government should hold such perpetrators accountable.”
Save the Children will work with all stakeholders towards better accessible social protection services to reach the most vulnerable people – including through the scaling up and reform of existing social protection and livelihood programmes.