Friday, 21 October 2011 07:58

NIGERIA: Responding to Needs of Vulnerable Children


Response to the needs of vulnerable children in Nigeria, especially in such vital areas as education, health, shelter and care, legal protection, food and nutrition, psychosocial support and household economic strengthening has been quit ineffective. This has made communities and households providing the safety net to these children live in perpetual struggle to cope with the high burden of care required by such vulnerable children.

Contributions to the response to vulnerable children needs have been largely driven by the civil society organisations (composed largely of non-governmental organisations, community based organisations and faith-based organisations) with gaps in the quality and consistency of care provided.

As part of effort to bring succour to the over 17.5 million orphans and vulnerable children in Nigeria, the global fund on its round 9 consolidated grant through Association for Reproductive and Family health (ARFH) and Association for Orphans and Vulnerable Children in Nigeria (AONN) supported the process of identifying and selecting 1400 vulnerable children across the 17 southern states of the country who are in dire need of support (especially those infected or affected with HIV/AIDS).

To successfully complete this process and arrive at acceptable results, methods were employed with the use of standardised tools such as the orphans and vulnerable children Index (OVI) and child status index (CSI). Direct interviews with selected vulnerable children and their caregivers was conducted and also administration of the tools and other interpersonal interaction with members of the household or community gate keepers.

Findings from the field revealed that a high burden of care is experienced by the households sheltering vulnerable children as most of these households have little or no skills on income generating activities; a high level of psychosocial distress, malnourishment and inadequate food is common among vulnerable children.

These vulnerable children are stigmatized and discriminated against by their peers or community members. The rate of school drop out is high for the children in poor households and most of the children have ever been abused and/or exploited. Also, access to healthcare services is limited whereas the children have high health needs.

The aforementioned exposes these future leaders to indulging in political thuggery, risky sexual behaviour, social crime and other many vices.

Therefore, there is an urgent need for a firm commitment by all to tackle the increasing vulnerability of children in Nigeria.

To address the issue that increase the burden of care for vulnerable children and their households, the following have to be done.

They include, building access to their needs, in areas such as, education, legal protection, shelter and care, food and nutrition, health, psychosocial and economic strengthening; increasing awareness to everybody concerned at all levels on the issue of vulnerable children through electronic and print media; the need for government to establish a child commission to address all issues affecting children in Nigeria; promoting partnership, linkages and networking among stakeholders of children at all levels and supporting the passage of the Child Rights Act to law in states that have not yet done so.

Source: Leadership (Abuja, Nigeria)

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