Rose Ejembi, Makurdi
Traditional, religious leaders and other relevant stakeholders have been sensitized on the importance of birth registration, ending violence against children and women as well as COVID-19 prevention, and risk mitigation in Benue state.
The Child Protection Community Sensitization Campaigns which held in all 23 local government areas of the state was sponsored by the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) and organized by the National Population Commission (NPC) in collaboration with the Benue state Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development and the National Orientation Agency (NOA).
Speaking during one of the advocacies which held at the palace of the District Head of Ankpa/Wadata, Chief Asema Iortim Jp in Makurdi, NPC’s Federal Commissioner in charge of Benue, Patricia Kuchi commended UNICEF for supporting the program especially during the national lockdown occasioned by the COVID-19 global pandemic.
“We know and we admit that there is a short fall in the recordings of births. We hitherto had had shortfall but you can be sure that in the last 90 days, no birth has been registered with the commission and the law says every birth should be registered with the commission within 60 days.
“We are interested in this programme because before now, we have had several advocacy visits. UNICEF has intervened in our advocacy efforts in the state and within this period that we had this pandemic, a lot of activities came to a grinding halt.
“Offices were shutdown and lives were not normal. So, we know and we admit that there is a short fall in the recordings of births. But we can say that because of the pandemic we also have not been available. Even when we have been available and there was no challenge, we had a shortfall because people were not going out.
“So, it is a collaboration to kick start birth registration exercise all over again. Perhaps some of them went when the offices were shutdown. Now we are available and we are carrying the message particularly to the councils to step up advocacy and registration of birth,” she said.
On his part, state Director of NOA, Richard Audu said the Agency was leading the advocacy on the COVID-19 pandemic in mobilizing and sensitizing of the people on the dangers of the pandemic and also taking responsibility.
“We are in this to ensure that people respect the World Health Organization (WHO), protocol and take precautionary measures to avoid contacting the virus and check its spread in our state.
Audu expressed satisfaction with the reaction of the people towards the sensitization and advocacy campaigns even as he urged them to continue to practice all the laid down safety measures put in place by relevant authorities to check the spread of the virus.
“We advise the people to avoid contacts as much as possible because it is one issue we are still battling with both in churches and mosques even in the state.
“In Benue state the infection rate is increasing and the issue is that Nigerians want to see you bring some handouts for them before they gather to listen to you. They expect at least free face masks. This we have reported to the state government but nothing has been done in that regard. We commend the level of attendance and interaction we had,” the NOA boss said.
Also commenting, Commissioner for Women Affairs and Social Development, Mrs. Nyiezungwe Igirgi commended UNICEF for collaborating with the state government to attend to such issues as birth registration, gender based violence and the COVID-19 pandemic.
Igirgi who lamented the rising spate of gender based violence against women and children as well as the skyrocketing spate of rape cases in the country said the program was timely.
“You will discover that rape cases are on the increase in the country. We have cases of fathers raping their children and much more. So, parents have been sensitized on how to check such by properly educating their female children to be sensitive and alert at all times. If anyone touches them they should cry out.
“Apart from rape, we have issue of women being beaten up and violated by their husbands and children are being molested by those who nanny them. Also people will bring other people’s children to their homes in the guise that they want to give them education only to turn them into slaves. This is one issue that we are also campaigning against.”
The Women Affairs Commissioner appreciated UNICEF for supporting the programme saying the support had enabled the Ministry to go out and sensitize the people on the issues of birth registration, gender based violence and the COVID 19 pandemic which will go a long way to help the people lead a better life and stay safe.
District Head of Ankpa/Wadata in Makurdi Local Government Area of the State, Chief Samuel Iortim Asema on his part, thanked UNICEF for the advocacy.
He said the meeting has afforded his subjects the opportunity to learn much about COVID-19, registration of birth and the violence against women.