The United Nation’s Children’s Fund on Tuesday in Abeokuta, Ogun State, raised the alarm that Nigeria has failed to make significant progress in checking the rising mortality rate of children under five years of age.
The UNICEF Country Representative, Ms. Jean Gough, who expressed this concern, said that with less than 1000 days to getting to the target date for the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals, Nigeria had yet to improve on the prevalent rate of mortality of children under five years old.
Gough spoke just as Governor Ibikunle Amosun appealed to stakeholders to address child labour and take urgent steps to take the country off the edge of a looming disaster in the nearest future.
The UNICEF country representative and Amosun stated these during the opening of the 14th edition of the Zonal Network for Children meeting in Abeokuta and attended by secretaries to the state government of Ogun, Lagos, Oyo, Ondo, Osun, Ekiti, Edo and Delta.
The four-day conference, which has the theme: “Fulfilling the rights of children: Our responsibility,” is organised by the Ogun State Government, in collaboration with the UNICEF B-FIELD Office.
According to Gough, 20 per cent of child deaths in sub-Saharan Africa occur in Nigeria.
She noted that this development had increasingly made Nigeria the cynosure of all eyes during global discussions on child mortality issues.
“At the beginning of this millennium, countries of the world agreed to reduce by two-thirds the under-five mortality rate by the year 2015.
Between 2009 and 2011, the under-five mortality rate has dropped by about 45 per cent globally. However, this progress is not the reality for all countries. Currently, about half of the world’s under-five deaths occur in five countries: Nigeria, India, Congo, Pakistan and China.
“Despite our collective efforts,under-five mortality rate in Nigeria has increased rather than reducing in the recent years. The Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS4) report indicates that under-five mortality in Nigeria increased from 138 per 1,000 live births in 2007 to 158 per 1,000 live births in 2011.
“This implies that 158 out of every 1,000 children born in Nigeria will die before they celebrate their fifth birthday. Unfortunately, a majority of these deaths are due to preventable causes which could be averted by simple methods such as household hygiene practices, good nutritional practices and health seeking behavior,” Gough said.
She noted that although the South West states have recorded lower under-five mortality rates than the national average, they needed to pay greater attention to accountability and value for money in all interventions to ensure better results in fulfilling children’s rights.
The UNICEF country representative said, “With less than 1,000 days to the MDG target date, all hands must be on deck to accelerate progress towards achieving the MDG targets and provide universal coverage of key interventions to improve the wellbeing of women and children in our respective states.
“We also need to support data generation and use to ensure evidence based policies and interventions as well as taking greater ownership in all child survival initiatives as a means to greater sustainability.”
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