Nigeria and the rest of the world celebrate children in diverse social and economic settings. But the sad reality is that the present level of child poverty and social deprivation is on the increase.
Today’s child is faced with stack poverty due to different factors.
Ahead of today, Monday in Abuja a conference cum workshop was organised in Nigeria by United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF, Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, Comparative Research Programme on Poverty, CROP, International Labour Organisation, ILO and Equity for Children on Child poverty and social protection in West and Central Africa.
According to a statement made available by UNICEF, a study was commissioned by UNICEF revealed that child poverty in Sub-Saharan Africa, in particularly in West and Central Africa was extremely high with a figure of almost 280 million children suffering multidimensional poverty.
According to Wikipedia, ‘’Child poverty refers to the phenomenon of children living in poverty. This applies to children that come from poor families or orphans being raised with limited, or in some cases absent, state resources. Children that fail to meet the minimum acceptable standard of living for the nation where that child lives are said to be poor. In developing countries, these standards are lower and when combined with the increased number of orphans the effects are more extreme.’’
According to UNICEF, child poverty refers to “children living in poverty are those who experience deprivation of the material, spiritual and emotional resources needed to survive, develop and thrive, leaving them unable to enjoy their rights, achieve their full potential or participate as full and equal members of society.
And the Child Fund International, CFI, defines child poverty based on deprivation such as lack of materialistic conditions and services, Exclusion, such as denial of rights and safety and Vulnerability (when society cannot deal with threats to children.
Other stakeholders such as charitable organisations also use this multi-dimensional approach to child poverty, defining it as a combination of economic, social, cultural, physical, environmental and emotional factors.
The universal legal definition of children is ‘people under the age of eighteen’, while biologically it is the transition from childhood to adulthood is said to occur with the onset of puberty. While the culturally definition of childhood is more complex because it takes into account factors such as the commencement of work, end of schooling and marriage as well as class, gender and race.
According to experts, if a family does not earn above a stipulated threshold, the children of that family will be considered to live below the poverty line.
In a presentation made by Mr. Uchechukwu Ozughale from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka titiled , ‘’ Child Poverty and Deprivation in Nigeria: Evidence from most recent surveys,’’ he presented a data that shows the different forms of child poverty and deprivations as it affects children in the different sub-sectors of the economy. In Nigeria factors militating against children’s protection include poor family background, lack of basic education, poor health, poor environment, lack of good water, and now insurgency.
Ozughale, gave core child poverty incidences deprivation and severity in Nigeria as follows. Overall child poverty incidence severity in Nigeria is 0.2464%. Child deprivation in education, especially in pre-school children is 56.49%. child deprivation in health especially basic vaccinations – BCG-62.69%, Polio- 95.68%, DPT-58.40%, Hepatitis b- 51.88%, Measles-54.71%, Yellow fever- 46.72%.
Child deprivation in nutrition is put at – stunting -33.95%, underweight-28.89%, and wasting-8.93%. child deprivation in child protection proportion of under five years whose birth are registered -41.5% , child deprivation in water and sanitation- proportion of children that have access to safe drinking water – 44.37%, proportion of children that have access to decent toilet facility- 16.325
Notably published reports show that of the estimated 2.2 billion children worldwide, about a billion, or every second child, live in poverty. Of the 1.9 billion children in developing nations, 640 million are without adequate shelter; 400 million are without access to safe water; 270 million have no access to health services. In 2003, 10.6 million children died before reaching the age of five, which is equivalent to the total child population of France, Germany, Greece, and Italy. 1.4 million die each year from lack of access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation while 2.2 million die each year due to lack of immunizations.
According to Ozughale, said that 70% of Nigerian children are plagued by poverty particularly in Northern Nigeria adding that poverty makes it impossible for children to have their fundamental human rights.
‘’When children grow in poverty they are most likely to remain in it all the days of their lives’’, he said.
Also a former UN Resident and Humanitarian coordinator who gave a lecture on child poverty noted thast the earth was getting hotter and more in equal especially for children, stressing that inequality matters because it slows down the economy and makes societies inefficient.
Experts on children matters say that the majority of poverty-stricken children are born to poor parents. They say that the causes such as poverty, government, lack of education, unemployment, social services, disabilities and discrimination as significant cause of child poverty. Also lack of parental economic resources such as disposable low income restricts children’s opportunities. Economic and demographic factors such as de-industrialization, globalization, residential segregation, labor market segmentation, and migration of middle-class residents from inner cities, constrain economic opportunities and choices across generation, isolating inner city poor children.
The loss of “family values”, or decline of the nuclear family, illegitimacy, teen pregnancy, and increased numbers of single mothers, is also a major cause of poverty and welfare dependency for women and their children. Children from unwanted pregnancies are also more likely to live in poverty.
It has been argued that the cycle of poverty is when a family remains in poverty over many successive generations. For this reason it is pertinent for governments to help in reducing the cycle of poverty by creating more social infrastructures that would help in reducing child poverty.
Such policies that would facilitate improved quality of education for the poor are the best way to break the cycle of child poverty and eventual poverty in societies.
Improving the environment the child grows up in, ensuring access to health, providing financial incentives and promoting family values have all been suggested as ways to break the cycle.
Boys and girls have equal rates of poverty through their childhoods but as women enter their teens and childbearing years the rates of poverty between the genders widens.
Government should increase its drive to close the gap in child poverty and social protection by focusing more on rural settings where the level of poverty is high. This will help to interrupt the negative patterns of poverty that affect the education, nutrition, health, and psychological, social outcomes for poor Nigerian children.