with Nnaemeka Nwokocha & Nkogho Desmond
What is the UN Day of the African Child All About?
The United Nations Day of the African Child is a day set aside by the United Nations to reflect on the fortunes or otherwise of the African child, what the world has seen in the African child and what the future of the African child is. It is a day intended to review the extent to which the African countries have been able to respect the rights of the African child and at the same time help to promote a brighter future for the African child.
The African child suffers and goes through several struggles and this is evident in the daily lives of children around the continent.
Some struggles of the African Child
The struggles an African child is likely to encounter are and are not limited to :
- Lack of access to quality healthcare.
- Lack of quality education.
- Poor hygiene.
- Abuse(physical, mental, psychological and verbal) as well as some bad cultural practices such as child labour, child marriage, female genital mutilation. Abuse is one regular struggle that has eaten deep into our society and affects children.
- Also, there is this big monster we have been neglecting and is eating deep inside us. It is child neglect. This is also a form of abuse as the parents and/or guardians of a child refuse to take responsibility for the total growth and development of a child. Whether it’s intentional or unintentional, a child is deprived of some necessary things needed for growth and development.
No child asked to be conceived or born, no child asked anybody to give birth to them so every child deserves respect and care. No child deserves to be neglected for any reason at all and that is a big problem in Africa. This is a big challenge facing the African child.
Shocking Statistic About The African Child
- Children in Africa are the poorest in terms of population.
The situation of African kids in sub-Saharan Africa is particularly critical – 33 of the world’s 48 least developed countries are located in this region.
The World Bank estimates that between 45 and 50 per cent of people in sub-Saharan Africa live below the poverty line, i.e., they have to live on less than $1.25 a day. This makes the sub-Saharan region the poorest region in the world. The African continent also has the highest number of malnourished people, at 24.8 per cent.
- Most children in Africa die before their 5th birthday
Despite the millennium goal of reducing child mortality by two-thirds between 1990 and 2015, one child in the world still dies every five seconds. The child mortality rate is particularly high in the African states of Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Sierra Leone.
- Growing up without parents – a sad reality for 15 million children in sub-Saharan Africa.
What Are The Factors Responsible For These Statistics?
30 Years After The Adoption of The Charter: Accelerate the Implementation of Agenda 2040 For An Africa Fit For Children.
What does this theme for the year 2021 talk about?
It talks about enabling our African children to access the issues mentioned earlier.
To help the African child, these 4 principles must be considered;
- Best interest of the child.
- The right to life, survival and development.
The charter seeks to help the African Child solve these problems. It was drafted in 1990 and adopted in 1991. That is exactly 30 years ago. So the main issue of this charter is to provide a platform, a structure upon which to assess the progress of different states and the state actors and even non-state actors in the area of respect for the rights of the child.
The intention is to have a reference point upon which the rights of the child, as well as any form of its abuse, is checked.
Coming back to Nigeria, I think the major progress that has been made in that area is the adoption and passage of the Child Rights act in 2003 by the national assembly.
Unfortunately, only very few states in Nigeria have accepted the Child Rights Act, and this is a huge disrespect for the children. Any state to adopt this act must first domesticate it and provide funding for the implementation of it. So, 30 years after the adoption of the convention on the rights of the child, and the charter of the rights of the child in Africa. The African child is still in deep deficits as it has to do with respect for their rights.
If the rate at which we are expected to progress is very low, then we’re at risk and we are making very little progress indeed.
Considering All These, what can be said about the future of the African Child?
The tragedy of our leadership is that sometimes, these things we look at as progress are just what our leaders do to satisfy conditionalities to access funds from donor agencies and embezzle them.
For example, part of the requirements for the full implementation of the child Rights act is that every state should have a children’s Parliament both at the national level. Funds are voted for annually, but the leaders misuse them.
The executives to implement these laws haven’t found anything wrong as they still give out the hand of under-aged girls in marriage, use children below 18years for labour maybe as helps, domestic staff, nannies and industrial workers, and recruit under-aged children for war.
My major concern about the future of the African child is that today’s African child will be an African adult tomorrow. A poorly bred African child today will be a disaster-laden African adult tomorrow and will also replicate the poor upbringing he or she must have experienced in other children in Africa tomorrow. For this reason, I feel how dangerous is it that the African child is not receiving the care he deserves even at this time. Indeed, a cycle of disaster awaits if this continues.
We cannot keep waiting for the government to do everything. We have our parts to play. We need to take it upon ourselves to do the little we can.
- Private organisations, NGOs, religious organisations, media houses, community leaders and families should do the needful and play their own little part. The reason is if we keep waiting for the government, we won’t do anything and we will lose our children who should take our place tomorrow.
- Parents should consider birth control strategies and actively take part in them.
- Parents should strive to have a source of livelihood so that they can give the best care to their children.
- The community should be the watchdog for children and where anyone notices that a child is being abused the person should speak out against abuse and save that child from abuse.
- We should advocate for more social entrepreneurs interested in child care so that they can come up with ideas and solutions to help fix these challenges.
- Since we are highly religious people, our religious leaders should also help in this fight. Especially in the area of family life.
- NGOs should keep up the good work and be more strategic in their approaches.
- The media houses should play a role in highlighting the different faces of child abuse so that people will be aware.
The African Child is our hope for tomorrow, and they deserve all the care they can get, let’s, therefore, ensure that this care is appropriately and adequately given to them.