COVID-19: Group Makes Case for Vulnerable Children

A non-governmental organisation, the Centre for Children’s Health Education, Orientation and Protection, CEE-HOPE Nigeria, has called for the inclusion of children and young people in the conversations and efforts aimed at combating the spread of the ravaging coronavirus pandemic in Nigeria by government and relevant stakeholders.

In a statement in Lagos, the child’s rights and development NGO posited that children and young people ought to be adequately informed on safety measures especially through mass media platforms as well as included in economic palliatives, a development the group contended was currently not enough.

‘Children and young aspiring persons are part of the bleak global statistics of COVID-19’s victims and to ignore them or not allow adequate information get to them is a problem, especially those in impoverished, under-served informal communities in cities and rural areas of Nigeria, for clearly, we can’t handle an exponential outbreak with the dilapidated state of our public health facilities ,’ said Betty Abah, CEE-HOPE’s Executive Director.

She also called for renewed efforts to reach these populations in remote locations with relief items and government’s palliative measures considering the shrill cries of starvation, desperation and complaints about marginalisation from across the country in the face of the stifling nationwide lock-down exercise.

CEE-HOPE’s relief drive which has benefited about 300 families across Lagos, Ogun, Ebonyi, Plateau, Kaduna and Benue States, was described by the group as ‘grossly inadequate in light of the deep and widespread needs’ and appealed for more support from institutions and public-spirited individuals.

Also, the group’s efforts at targeting children and families in marginalised and rural communities include providing tailored information via radio jingles aired on several radio stations including in Lagos, Benue and Abuja in addition to production of video animations and printing of flyers in child-appropriate languages, distribution of flyers to informal communities in Lagos and rural communities in Ogun State among others, while sharing posters and communication materials on social media. It is all aimed at reaching young minds in the face of the global pandemic which has, as at April 13 infected 323 Nigerians and 10 deaths according to the Nigerian Centre for Diseases Control (NCDC) and more than 1, 800, 000 infected globally with a global death rate of more than 116, 000 according to Johns Hopkins University’s Coronavirus Resource Centre.

Recently, the organisation also started a weekly ‘Twitter Chat’ with the hashtags #ChildrenAndCoronaVirus and #LeaveNoChildBehind, featuring eminent stakeholders and personalities in Nigeria and abroad to inspire continuous discourse around the plight of children and vulnerable families as well as the need to bring in young people’s voices into the entire conversation around managing and ultimately ending the ongoing global public health crisis.

The first Twitter Chat (or ‘Twitter Conference’) which focused on children and communications lapses with regards to COVID-19 held on April 8, featured Mr. John Hecklinger, the President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Global Fund for Children, USA, and Mr. Lekan Otufodunrin, a veteran journalist, Executive Director of Media Career Service and a Board of Trustees Member of CEE-HOPE, Nigeria.

The second built around the plight of trafficked women and children and migrant families amidst COVID-19’s onslaught, features Debbie Ariyo (OBE), Chief Executive Officer of AFRUCA-Safeguarding Children, a child’s rights and anti-trafficking non-profit in the United Kingdom and Mr. Godwin Morka, a child protection and migration expert and trainer and also a director with the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP), Nigeria.

More of such weekly chats are expected to be held on Twitter in the coming weeks and months.

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