By Bode Olushegun
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) at the weekend said Boko Haram crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic had increased the need for child protection service in the troubled North East.
The United Nations agency, while expressing its readiness to support government’s efforts to provide physical and psychological care for children in Borno state as well as other affected states of the North East, said the well-being of children should be paramount.
Speaking on an occasion to commemorate the World Children’s Day in Maiduguri at the weekend, the Chief of Borno Field Office of UNICEF, Mr. Maulid Warfa, said the event was an opportunity for children to reimagine a better future for themselves, and for government and development partners to listen to their ideas.
He added that UNICEF, with support from the European Union, Education Cannot Wait, Norwegian Embassy and United Kingdom’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, would continue to improve education, child protection and health services to children.
He said: “A life where you have to rely on handouts is dehumanizing. I know this because I became a refugee at the age of nine. When I visit internally displaced persons camps in Borno, it reminds me of what life really is. I urge you not to give up.
“UNICEF is already supporting government with funding from donors to ensure that the impact of disruptions to education and immunization schedules during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown is reversed.
“As we plan for the next two years, we want to listen to you and your ideas. For interventions to be successful, it must include inputs from children. We value our partnership with the state government, and we will continue to support conflict-affected children.”
In her remarks, the Borno State Commissioner for Women Affairs and Social Development, Hajia Zuwaira Gambo, said the welfare of children remains priority of the state government.
She urged children in the state to strive for excellence despite their difficult experience.
She said: “I am glad that all of you here are in school. As our future leaders, you will determine the direction of this country and how peaceful our society will be. We will continue to support you to achieve your dreams.”
At the event, children from three internally displaced persons camps presented art materials showcasing their challenges and solutions to the commissioner and development partners.
One of the highlights of the occasion was when ten-year-old Ahmad Aliyu from Muna Garage IDP camp, who urged government to introduce vocational education to children in primary and secondary schools.
He said, “I could not go to school during the lockdown, but my father advised that I should take up cobbling. I was able to support my family as a cobbler in my camp because it was a very difficult time for us. Many children will become self-reliant if vocation education is encouraged in primary and secondary school.’’