As Nigeria marks Children’s Day, the United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund has raised alarm over the high number of Nigerian girls that are sexually abused.
UNICEF, in a statement to commemorate the 2021 Children’s Day, said one in three Nigerian girls are sexually abused.
The statement issued by UNICEF’s Country Director in Nigeria, Peter Hawkins, also lamented over increasing poverty, growing inequality and the COVID-19 pandemic that contributed to the growing number of sexual abuse suffered by Nigerian girls.
Hawkins, who called for reinforcement on efforts geared towards protecting the rights of children in the country, lamented the outbreak COVID-19, saying it had threatened decades of progress the world body made for children’s development.
He said, “It has been a challenging year for us all with COVID-19 pandemic, not least of all – Nigeria’s children. As we rightfully celebrate Nigerian children today, let us also remember that the COVID-19 crisis has been a child rights crisis – in Nigeria and around the world.
“Poverty is rising, inequality is growing, and the pandemic has often disrupted the essential services that secure the health, education, and protection of children and young people.
“The longer the pandemic goes on, the more intense the impact on women and children.
“On this Nigerian Children’s Day, let us all agree that we cannot let one crisis compound another.
“The pandemic is threatening decades of progress we have made for children.
“Violence is perpetrated against one in four Nigerian children – and one in three Nigerian girls are sexually abused. This has only increased during the pandemic.
“Today of all days, we must commit to reinforce the protection mechanisms for all children”, the Country Director stated.
The Country Director called for the protection of children, stating that Nigerian children were talented, resilient and aspire to do great things.
Hawkins said children should learn in and out of school, adding that “investing in children, women and families is not only the right thing to do – it has proven to be a sound economic choice and a cost-effective tool for national development.”
He added, “But we have learned from this pandemic too. One thing we have learned is that education takes place not only in schools – children can and should learn both in and out of school.
“A learning continuum is critical so that all children continue to get an education irrespective of their situation, location, or the pandemic.
“As we celebrate our children today, we must act in their best interests and deploy innovative solutions to fast-track learning and health services to build back better, for every Nigerian child.”