…As Experts set to storm Pakistan over HIV outbreak***
In commemoration of the Nigerian Children’s Day, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has inaugurated a campaign tagged: “For every child, every right’’.
Mr Peter Hawkins, UNICEF’s new Country Representative in Nigeria, who disclosed this in a statement on Monday in Abuja on assumption of office, said the campaign was aimed at drawing awareness to children’s rights by all Nigerians.
Hawkins emphasised that child rights could only be fully realised when every government and every citizen is aware of and upholds children’s rights and every child can claim those rights.
The UNICEF country representative said the children’s day came at a crucial moment for child’s right in the country and globally.
“While there have been many advances over the last years, children in Nigeria are still not accessing health, nutrition, education and other rights.
“Sadly, it is the most disadvantaged children who are suffering the greatest challenge in having their rights fulfilled,” Hawkins said.
According to him, Nigerian Children’s Day 2019 falls during the 30th anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), which is being commemorated this year around the world.
Hawkins further noted that the organisation would as well inaugurate “Passport to Your Right’’, a copy of CRC in child friendly language in pocket format, as part of the celebrations of CRC @30.
“As part of the celebrations, UNICEF is launching a `Passport to Your Rights’ – a copy of the CRC in child-friendly language, in pocket format,” he explained.
He said: “The CRC ‘passport’ will also be available in Hausa, Igbo, Yoruba and Pidgin languages, helping to ensure access by millions of Nigerians.
According to him, UNICEF aims that every child in Nigeria has a copy by 2030, the deadline for achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
“Thirty years ago, something incredible happened. World leaders came together in a moment of unity for the world’s children. They made a promise to every child to protect and fulfil their rights, by adopting the UN’s Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).
“The convention established childhood as a period that is separate from adulthood – a time in which children should grow, learn, play, develop and flourish.
“We want to see every Nigerian child have that kind of a childhood,” Hawkins said.
He further explained that the CRC became the most widely-ratified human rights treaty in history, with Nigeria ratifying it in 1991.
Hawkins noted that the convention has helped to transform children’s lives; inspiring legislative changes to protect children and enabling them to participate actively in their societies.
“Today, more children than ever live healthy lives; are learning in school and have a voice in their communities. But much more needs to be done as children’s rights continue to be unfulfilled and threatened daily around the world and in Nigeria.
“There are still too many children being left behind and too many childhoods cut short by violence, conflict, poverty and inequality.
“On this Nigerian Children’s Day, we must look ahead to the future of childhood in this country and re-commit to urgent, specific actions to protect the rights of every child – now, and in future generations.
“Child rights will only be fully realised when every government and every citizen is aware of and upholds children’s rights and every child can claim those rights.
“It is for this reason that we are launching a campaign ‘For every child, every right’ and will work closely with the government to ensure that all Nigerians are aware of the rights that all children have. This includes in particular children themselves,” the statement read in part.
“Working together, we can seize this moment and make it a turning point for every child; I look forward to picking up this challenge, as the new UNICEF Country Representative in Nigeria,” Hawkins assured.
In the meantime, an international team of experts is expected to arrive in southern Pakistan where an HIV outbreak has infected hundreds of children, local media reported on Monday.
“A 10-member joint team of World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) would work with local medics,’’ Zafar Mirza, the prime minister’s special advisor for health, said.
On Sunday, Mirza said that the experts would start working in the region in a couple of days.
“Health officials are continuing to screen thousands of people every day after hundreds were found infected with HIV in a small town,’’ Mirza added.
Health official Sikandar Memon said almost 800 people, mostly children, were tested positive in the town of Ratto Dhero in the province of Sindh during a screening process that was launched in April.
According to director general of health for the region, Masood Solangi, up to 2,000 people are being screened every day.
Ratto Dhero is a small, poor town in the district of Larkana, a region where over 1,500 people were found infected in 2018.
“The international experts would investigate the exact cause of the outbreak and assist local authorities to control the spread,’’ Mirza said.
NAN reports that Pakistan was long considered a low prevalence country for HIV, but the disease is expanding at an alarming rate, particularly among intravenous drug users and sex workers.
With about 20,000 new HIV infections reported in 2017 alone, Pakistan currently has the second fastest growing HIV rates across Asia, according to the UN.
Pakistan’s surging population also suffers the additional burden of having insufficient access to quality healthcare following decades of under-investment by the state, leaving impoverished, rural communities especially vulnerable to unqualified medical practitioners.
“According to some government reports, around 600,000 quack doctors are operating across the country and around 270,000 are practicing in the province of Sindh,” said UNAIDS in a statement.
Provincial health officials have also noted that patients are at particular risk of contracting diseases or viruses at these clinics, where injections are often pushed as a primary treatment option.