“Children are the world’s most valuable resource and it’s best hope for the future”- John F. Kennedy
Ever wondered what it would feel like to be a child in these uncertain times, with the COVID-19 pandemic causing series of changes which affected their routine, especially for those who were already engaged in one form of educational institution or another and have been restricted to staying at home. For those who can, it is very likely that they already asked their parents or caregivers why they’ve been at home. Some may have gotten a good explanation as to the reason why, but one cannot be sure if they really understand what is actually going on. Some children are more expressive about their feelings than others and the COVID-19 pandemic may affect each child in a different way. As the world battles to contain the pandemic, it is very easy to neglect the needs of vulnerable groups like children especially when all the attention is paid to the pandemic. However, it is very crucial that special care is taken not to overlook this special and equally important group as doing so could carry untoward consequences.
At every stage of a country’s development, ensuring that decisions made are in the best interests of children would be a wise thing to do, as in the words of Maria Montessori, “Within the child lies the fate of the future”. Children are dependent on their parents, families, caregivers, communities and government for various aspects of their lives which includes maintaining good health. The activities of families, communities and government can directly or indirectly affect a child’s life, creating a positive or negative impact on the child’s health. For instance, certain policies made by government may affect present and future generation, harmful cultural beliefs and practices in a community or unhealthy family lifestyle may have negative effects on children found within them. Thus, parents, families, communities and government owe children a responsibility to safeguard their health.
Although children are young, they are no less of humans like the rest of the population, and as such have a ‘Right to Health’ which is one of the human rights in the World Health Organisation(WHO) constitution(1946) where living in the highest attainable standard of health is considered to be a fundamental right of every human being. It is therefore expected that every child live in a highest standard of health possible. Parents, caregivers, family members, communities, government and others whose decisions and actions affect the health of children at any level or capacity are encouraged to protect and promote the health this group at all times. It is a special duty which goes a long way in affecting a child’s future and a nation’s fate. Health is not only considered in terms of physical aspect but includes the mental and social aspects as well. It is clear that are many factors that could affect a child’s health and identifying and managing these factors appropriately and in a timely manner reduces the immediate and longterm effects on the health of the child.
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, babies are still being delivered globally. The parents of the newly born might have had mixed feelings of anxieties and joy which may affect the quality of care given to the newborn. Also, with a lot of funds been put into dealing with the pandemic, care should be taken not to reduce funding from equally important activities like immunisation, maternal and child health, adolescent and reproductive health so as to reduce the number of preventable deaths, for example, deaths from vaccine-preventable diseases among children under the age of five years.
Annually, on the 27th of May, Nigeria celebrates ‘Children’s Day’ which is a special day dedicated to every child. Making it a priority to promote a child’s health can be one of the best, durable gifts a parent, caregiver, community or government will offer a child. Helping a child stay healthy or promoting a child’s health bears benefits both in the present and future of the child. After birth, a child encounters a family who eventually become a strong influence, the child is cared for in ways that may be healthy or unhealthy and learn about their environment from the people who surround them while growing up.
Thus, it is essential that children, however young, are exposed to healthy lifestyles as the formative years are important in shaping a child’s future.
Parents and caregivers can encourage children to live healthier lives not only by telling them what to do but also by setting good examples for the kids to follow. Encouraging healthy activities and behaviours like engaging in regular exercise appropriate for age, eating varieties of fruits and vegetables daily, getting adequate sleep, avoiding substance abuse(adolescents), discussing problems and expressing feelings in an appropriate manner, limiting time spent watching TV, reducing intake of excess sugars among many others will help improve kids health. Attention should also be paid to their mental, social, emotional health as well.
According to UNICEF( An agenda for action, 2020), disturbance experienced in communities could affect the well-being as well as the future of children to a large extent and urgent action is needed to prevent a crisis of child’s right from occurring during the COVID-19 pandemic. UNICEF calls for global action to keep children healthy; Make safe water, sanitation and proper hygiene available to vulnerable children; Ensure continuity of learning for kids; Help families with their needs and in caring for their children; Protect children from all forms of violence and abuse as well as help keep refugee and migrant children safe.
Every member of the community and the different levels of government have varying roles to play and there needs to be collaborative, inter-sectoral and multi-sectoral efforts and actions geared towards protecting and promoting children’s health everywhere.
Health quote of the week“Keep spreading love and support to children
everywhere, until there is no child in the world who lacks them.”