•Media stakeholders, others worry over plight of kids in North-East
From Paul Orude, Bauchi
The plight of children affected by the Boko Haram insurgency in the North-East region of the country is giving journalists in the country considerable cause for worry.
The children’s predicament was the focus of a recent one-day media sensitisation meeting that brought together journalists, media practitioners and other stakeholders in Bauchi. The event was held on June 16.
The event, held to commemorate the 2016 Day of the African Child (DAC), was organised by the Bauchi Radio Corporation (BRC), with support from the UNICEF Bauchi field office. The objective was to raise awareness on the situation of children in conflict and crisis.
The Bauchi meeting advocated a change of attitude against the rights of children, just as it sought an improvement in the funding, policies and programmes related to child rights.
Other objectives of the meeting were to ease the harsh conditions of children currently living in the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camps in the North-East and to increase media visibility on the rights of children.
The theme for DAC 2016 was ‘Conflict and Crisis in Africa: Protecting all Children’s Rights.’ The journalists were expected to, at the end of the meeting, mobilise towards protection of the rights of children.
Also expected was high visibility of issues pertaining to the issues of children’s rights in the media, triggering positive action towards the welfare and protection of children, especially in the area of educational integration in the IDP camps.
Declaring the meeting open, the Managing Director of the BRC, Hajia Jummai Liman Bello lamented the devastation caused by insurgency in the North-East sub-region.
Liman Bello expressed sadness that the insurgency had negatively affected thousands of children economically, educationally and physically, hence the need for all stakeholders work hard in order to address the plight of children.
She said journalists had vital roles to play in ensuring the protection of the rights of the children, particularly their inalienable rights to survival and development through regular reportage on issues concerning them. Journalists must also pressure government, policy makers and lawmakers to initiate policies that protect children’s rights.
Quoting the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and Presidency records, Muhammad Inuwa Bello, Chairman, Bauchi State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA), emergency preparedness & awareness committee, disclosed that during the last three years, about two million people were displaced in the North East as a result of the insurgency.
“Half of the number is children, and half of the children are either orphans or separated from their parents, and many hundreds of thousands have been killed as a result of direct attacks or malnutrition as a result of starvation and hunger,” Bello disclosed.
At the meeting, Inuwa presented a paper: “The Impact of Conflict and Crisis on the Rights of Children: A Call to Action for All.” He stated: “The situations resulting from armed conflicts affect primarily children because of their vulnerability, and do so in many different ways. Often left alone and helpless because of the reigning chaos, some become child soldiers; others are forced into exploitation. The fundamental rights of these children are flouted.”
He said due to the Boko Haram insurgency, most children ended up as child soldiers, displaced children, orphans, injured or handicapped children, imprisoned or captured (like the case of the Chibok girls), sexually exploited or subjected to forced labour, even as many are out of school.
Inuwa Bello appealed to the government, community and religious leaders, philanthropists, non-governmental organisations, community-based organisations, parents and journalists to play more active roles to ameliorate the sufferings of children affected by Boko Haram.
He specifically charged journalists as the mouth piece and agenda setters to remedy the situation of the children affected by the Boko Haram crisis through regular reportage, prompt visitation to the communities and to IDP camps and engaging in advocacy for improved condition of living and funding as well as budget monitoring.
Another paper, ‘What UNICEF does to Protect the Rights of Children during Conflict and Crisis,’ was presented by Mr. Samuel Kaalu, Communication Officer, UNICEF Nigeria, Bauchi Field Office. He said the organisation’s mandate was to advocate the protection of children’s rights; to help meet their basic needs and to expand their opportunities to reach their full potential.
Kaalu said that UNICEF strived to establish children’s rights as enduring ethical principles and international standards of behaviour towards children, adding that for the organisation, the survival, development and protection of children were universal development imperatives integral to human progress.
He said that UNICEF was committed to ensuring special protection for the most disadvantaged children – victims of war, disasters, extreme poverty, all forms of violence and exploitation and those with disabilities.
He listed the rights of the children as including the right to survival – health, good nutrition, water, sanitation & hygiene; the right to development – education, protection participation, recreation and the right to be heard.
Lamenting the impact of the Boko Haram insurgency on children, Kaalu stressed that most of them had “become victims of grave violations of their rights: – killings, abductions, sexual violence and even the use of children in so-called suicide attacks.
“Even where children are not the direct targets of violence, the impact of the conflict on their lives is tragic. Of the more than 2.4 million people displaced from their homes by the conflict, more than half are children, more than a quarter of the displaced are five years old or younger.
“Children have been wrenched from their homes and their communities. Many have been injured or have witnessed the injury or deaths of loved ones. Some 20,000 children have been separated from their families or are alone as a result of the conflict.”
Kaalu disclosed that UNICEF was working with partners to protect the rights of children through its various programmes, including the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH), among others.
For instance, he said, WASH focused on construction of water points, sanitation facilities and promotion of hygiene – hand washing at critical times of the day.
He said with the support provided by the Government of Japan for WASH Services in 2015 and 2016, the sum of N134.2 Million had been spent to construct boreholes and latrines in IDP camps and communities hosting IDPs in Adamawa State.
At the end of the meeting, media practitioners in the state resolved to bring out the plight of children in IDP camps and IDP host communities through regular reportage to elicit the required positive response from government and stakeholders.
The participants advised that government should come up with community-driven, peace-building mechanisms that would reduce the likelihood of conflicts escalating into physical violence.
That also appealed that traditional, community and religious leaders should endeavour to educate people on the need to imbibe the spirit of peaceful co-existence, irrespective of religious, cultural or tribal differences.
To address the plight of children, the meeting called on legislators in the North Eastern states to make relevant laws that will seek to protect the rights of children and ensure the domestication of the Child Rights Act by states yet to domesticate the law in the region.
A walk against drug abuse
By Job Osazuwa
A non-governmental organisation (NGO), Adorable Foundation International (AFI), recently staged a walk against drug abuse in Lagos. The campaign, the group noted, became essential following the increasing rate of drug abuse in the country.
The foundation, in collaboration with the Societal Awareness Campaign Against Drug Abuse (ASACADA, during the rally, sensitised people of the state to the dangers of indulging in drug abuse. The date was Sunday, June 26 – the day set aside by the United Nations, as the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking.
The walk, amid enlightenment and fun, began from Teslim Balogun Stadium, from where the participants moved to the palace of the Eze Ojiofor Ndigbo, Lagos, Eze Cyril Anomneze for fatherly blessings. They then proceeded through Surulere, Ojuelegba, Mushin, Oshodi, Ikeja, Maryland, Yaba, CMS, Obalende, Awolowo Road before moving back to the stadium.
Friends of the foundation, including psychiatric doctors, artistes and others ,were dressed in red to support the campaign around the city.
Founder and President of Adorable Social Club of Nigeria (ASCN), Princess Okeke-Amam, filled with excitement for the realisation of the campaign after tedious planning, told journalists that the walk was a day of sober reflection on the devastating effects of drug misuse.
“As I speak to you, the campaign is on-going in Abuja, Awka, Anambra State, and in some other state capitals. Adorable International will go all round to see that we provide our own support for Nigeria,” she said.
Okeke-Amam revealed that what kept driving her in the campaign was the zeal to save people doomed for calamity as a result of ignorance about of what they were doing. She said her passion was always renewed whenever she discovered that her effort brought joy to others. She cited the case of a police officer that confided in her that he took to drugs because of depression.
Said she: “We want to live up to our slogan, which is ‘Put a smile on the Lazarus around you.’
“I’m happy that the UN theme for this year’s celebration is ‘Listen First’. We have to listen and that is what we are doing. We have to spread the message to parents, and then to others, especially the youths, to know the implication of drug abuse.”
A lawyer and top member of ASCN and ASACADA, Nkechi Chukwueke, announced that the campaign would soon be taken outside the shores of the country.
“This programme is the first of its kind and we intend to do it every year all over Nigeria and very soon, we shall be travelling to African countries before we step it up to Europe,” she said.
The Superintendent of Narcotics, National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), Lagos State Command, Musa Aliyu, and his deputy, Usman Mohammed, said that the agency was proud to partner with the NGO to eradicate drug abuse in Nigeria.
Aliyu advised parents to watch out for signs that could point to a child who is taking drugs.
His words: “If you go to their rooms, just observe what is within. You may see lighter or matchbox, pieces of papers, bottles. If the child is not sick, the parent should ask what brought about cough syrup in the room.
“The cough syrup is now taking a new dimension. It is mostly abused by girls, who are going to be mothers later. If we allow them to continue taking codeine, they will be unable to bear children. The more they take it, the more it damages the womb.
“Also look out for corks, especially from bottles; it is very important in burning cocaine. Initially they use teaspoon but now corks are in fashion. If you see syringes in their rooms, you should ask why.”
Musa warned that the ultimate effect of drug consumption was that it would take the addict’s money and life, adding that there was nobody that would smoke marijuana for eight years non-stop without running mad.
Lagos-based lawyer, Guy Ikeokwu, on behalf of the foundation, canvassed support for the less-privileged from individuals, corporate bodies and the government.
He warned that hard drugs would lead to total blindness of the mind to opportunities.
Senior Registrar of Federal Neuro-Psychiatric Hospital, Yaba, Dr. Gbonjubola Abiri, debunked the belief that some people that were into drugs might live up to old age. She described such postulation as an act of ignorance.
She said: “The truth is that some people take substances and it appears nothing is wrong with them but what we always say is that it affects not just the brain but many other organs in the body. It predisposes to medical illnesses and mental illnesses as well.
“We always see patients who come down with mental disorders and who sometimes lose their lives in the process. So, while it may look like it’s not affecting a certain amount of people, you will never know what effect it would have on you.”
“Efforts are on-going and since the theme for this year is ‘Listen First’, we are looking at children because the age of initiation of these substances is rapidly dropping. You hear a patient telling you that as little as age eight or nine, he got introduced into smoking cigarettes, drinking alcohol by people in their environment. It is not that these things haven’t been there, it’s just that these days there’s a lot of awareness towards these substances.”