On African Child’s Day, UNICEF urges protection of the disabled
THE United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has spared a thought for children with disabilities on the continent at ceremonies marking this year’s Day of the African Child.
It urged families, communities and governments throughout the continent to protect children with disabilities from discrimination, violence, neglect and to provide them with access to all the services they need to live up to their potential.
The Day of the African Child commemorates a 1976 march in Soweto, South Africa, when thousands of African school children took to the streets to protest the inferior quality of their education and to demand their right to be taught in their own language. Hundreds of young boys and girls were shot down and in the two weeks of protest that followed, more than a hundred people were killed. More than a thousand were injured. To honour the memory of those killed and the courage of all those who marched, the Day of the African Child has been celebrated on June 16 every year since 1991 when it was first initiated by the Organisation of African Unity (OAU). The Day also draws attention to the lives of African children today.
The UN agency has also released the June 2012 edition of a quarterly newsletter on polio eradication initiative in Nigeria, The Game Changer. The Game Changer refers to the critical issues, which can either make or break Nigeria’s polio eradication efforts to achieve a polio-free Nigeria by 2012.
The newsletter discusses and features game changing initiatives as well as challenges and opportunities the Nigerian Polio Eradication Initiative is facing in its efforts to reach the global eradication goal.
The theme of the Day of the African Child 2012 is: “The Rights of Children with Disabilities: The Duty to Protect, Respect, Promote and Fulfill.”
UNICEF is concerned that 25 out of 55 African countries have not yet ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities that stipulates that children with disabilities should be protected against all forms of discrimination, and that they should have access to education, health services and protection from violence. By becoming a signature state, a country commits itself to promoting equal opportunities for people with disabilities.
It noted that school enrolment among children with disabilities is much lower in most countries than among other children. A 2011 UNICEF study undertaken in Madagascar found that on average, only 11 per cent of children with disabilities attended primary school, with school attendance among girls much lower. Almost all children interviewed reported that they were ridiculed by other children. Because of such bullying, as well as a lack of inclusive practices, children with disabilities are more likely to drop out of school than their peers without disability. Their learning achievements are often worse than those of other children, because schools are not designed to cater for them and teachers are often not adequately trained.
UNICEF noted that children with albinism are particularly at risk of being excluded and even attacked. Tanzania, the country with one of the largest populations of persons with albinism in the world, assembled children and adults with albinism in special protection centres to protect them from violence and even murder, fuelled by the belief that their body parts may give rise to good luck and fortune.
At an event to mark the day at the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) Press Centre, Iganmu, Lagos at the weekend, the Deputy Governor of Lagos State, Adejoke Orelope-Adefulire, represented by Mrs. Alaba Fadairo, Director, Child Development, Ministry of Women Affairs and Poverty Alleviation, said that the theme was a timely reminder of responsibilities to the children.
Also, 2.7 million children in Nigeria and five other persistently affected countries have never received even a single dose of oral polio vaccine (OPV), according to a report released yesterday by the Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) set up by the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI).
The other countries include: Angola, Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo), Chad, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Also, latest edition of the Weekly Polio Update published by GPEI noted that one new case of the Wild Polio Virus type 3 (WPV) was reported in the past week from Kaduna, bringing the total number of cases for 2012 to 40. The most recent case had onset of paralysis on May 7, 2012.
A Nigeria-based non-governmental organization with branches worldwide, the Neo- Black Movement (NBM) of Africa also commemorated the Soweto Massacre (the Day) with lectures, seminars, symposia, donations to orphanages and other humanitarian endeavours.
In a speech read globally at its branches, the pan-Africanist group’s Head (Worldwide), Mr. Bemigho Eyeoyibo said it was a “day of sober reflection that underlined the need for good governance, transparent socio-economic development, protection of human rights and peace in Black countries on the continent and in the Diaspora to guarantee the future of African child and our race.”