Enugu: The street children of coal city – Part 2
Enugu: The street children of coal city – Part 2

By Emmanuel Onwubiko

Enugu: The street children of coal city – Part 2
Continued from yesterday’s back page

Bangladesh came second to the last out of the five worst places to be born on Earth just as the reporter says that the country of Bangladesh is a republic located in South Asia and is the fourth worst place to be born in modern times.

Malnutrition, among other health issues, has long plagued Bangladesh.

In fact, the World Bank has ranked Bangladesh as the number one area in the world for children to suffer from malnutrition. Vast majorities of the population are undernourished, underweight, anemic, and growth stunted. Angola came fifth and the writers of the report said that the Republic of Angola is a southern African territory and is known as the fifth-worst place to be born. Angola has suffered extensive periods of economic hardships due to nearly twenty-seven years of civil war. Due to long periods of constant battle, Angola has also proved to be quite dangerous for its natives. The life expectancy is also very low, averaging at 52 years.

From the Streets of the South East of Nigeria, I saw the faces of deprived children who are just existing like the wretched of the earth with no government intervention to take them off the streets and these children encounter all kinds of dangers and threats and most of then are victims of sexual and physical violence. No wonder the CHAIRMAN, Bill and Melinda Foundation, Bill Gates, said that Nigeria is one of the most dangerous places in the world to give birth with the fourth worst maternal mortality rate in the world ahead of only Sierra Leone, Central African Republic, and Chad.

Gates who stated this at the Expanded National Economic Council presided over by the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, said that Nigeria’s fiscal situation was at a low equilibrium, adding that in return for low levels of service, people pay low levels of tax.

The philanthropist disclosed that his foundation’s biggest office in Africa was Nigeria where he had committed over $1.6 billion so far with the intention of increasing his commitment in the country.

He said that Nigeria has unmatched economic potential but that what becomes of the potential depends on the choices her leaders make.

According to him, “The most important choice you can make is to maximize your greatest resource, the Nigerian people. Nigeria will thrive when every Nigerian is able to thrive.

“If you invest in their health, education, and opportunities-the “human capital” we are talking about today-then they will lay the foundation for sustained prosperity. If you don’t, however, then it is very important to recognise that there will be a sharp limit on how much the country can grow.

“Nigeria is one of the most dangerous places in the world to give birth with the fourth worst maternal mortality rate in the world ahead of only Sierra Leone, Central African Republic, and Chad. One in three Nigerian children is chronically malnourished.

“I urge you to apply this thinking to all your investments in your people. The Nigerian government’s Economic Recovery and Growth Plan identify “investing in our people” as one of three “strategic objectives.” But the “execution priorities” don’t fully reflect people’s needs, prioritizing physical capital over human capital.

“To anchor the economy over the long term, investments in infrastructure and competitiveness must go hand in hand with investments in people. People without roads, ports, and factories can’t flourish. And roads, ports, and factories without skilled workers to build and manage them can’t sustain an economy.” 

Obviously, these street children of the Igbo states would have been born by Women who most probably do not have husbands and are therefore not having any form of family supports. Also, the social safety nets in the South East of Nigeria are nonexistent. Government and governance in the South East of Nigeria are by persons belonging to concentric circles of organised criminal gangsters who are in public offices for personal aggrandizement. By the way, most of these political office holders actually bought their way into those offices. So their offices are actually their business Center’s whereby they concentrate essentially to amass as much wealth as they can and so little or no money is expended towards the attainment of the adequate child welfare system or is there any functional social safety nets for these categories of persons whose only means of survival is to operate in the streets amidst the vagaries and vicissitudes of the times that are dangerous and too risky for kids to operate. I do also know that the mortality rate in the South East is high because much of what you call public healthcare institutions are dysfunctional just as all the yearly budgets passed by the slumbering states’ houses of assembly in the South East of Nigeria are essentially stolen and pocketed by the governors. Officially, the health conditions of Children born into poor homes are deplorable.  

According to the Nigeria Demographic Health Survey (NDHS, 2018), the under-five mortality rate in Nigeria is 132 per 1,000 live births meaning that 1 in 8 Nigerian children never reach the age of 5. Infant deaths, which account for half of the child mortality have declined from 87 per 1000 live births in 1990 to 67 in 2018. One (1) Nigerian woman dies in childbirth every 10 minutes, and 1 Nigerian child under-5 years of age dies every minute.

It is apparent through the elevated mortality rates that the lack of access to quality delivery services is an issue of immense importance in Nigeria. Problems such as cost for treatment, the deplorable state of the health facilities, distance to health facility lack of awareness and knowledge for informed decisions and referral are some of the many difficulties stated by caregivers in describing difficulty with accessing healthcare.

Integrated Management of Childhood Illness (IMCI) and iCCM are the key child survival thrust being used by the Nigerian Government to address the unacceptably high under-5 morbidity and mortality indices.

Dr Bose Adeniran, Head of Child Health Department, Federal Ministry of Health (FMoH) stated that “Child mortality has been a long-pending issue in Nigeria and a lot of mothers are not aware of the causes and or prevention.”

She added that “iCCM is a complete package focusing on prevention and also on curative and I think that is what our children need. In Abia and Niger States, we now have local evidence that this (iCCM) is the way to go as it relates to addressing the unacceptably high under-five mortality rate in Nigeria”

Onwubiko is the head of the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA).

Substantial global progress has been made in reducing child deaths since 1990. The total number of under-5 deaths worldwide has declined from 12.6 million in 1990 to 5.3 million in 2018. On average, 15 000 children under-5 die each day compared with 34 000 in 1990. Since 1990, the global under-5 mortality rate has dropped by 58%, from 93 deaths per 1,000 live births in 1990 to 39 in 2017 This is equivalent to 1 in 11 children dying before reaching age 5 in 1990, compared to 1 in 26 in 2018.

“With numerous World Health Organization’s (WHO) supports to Nigeria, many caregivers, especially in the rural areas are now aware of the available essential package of interventions for child survival along the continuum of care”, says Dr Joy Ufere, WHO, Family and Reproductive Health Cluster.

She added that “WHO will continue to provide a leadership role to monitor the implementation of these interventions towards reducing Under-5 morbidity and mortality across Nigeria.”

I honestly think that the South East of Nigeria must embrace the task of eradicating the social menace of street children because of the long term consequences of not doing anything to better the lot of the deprived children who are forced to go to the streets to try to survive in these hard times. A stitch in time should save nine so the South East of Nigeria is not turned into the breeding grounds of future armed bandits as we have in the North of Nigeria whereby the UNESCO estimated that there are over 10 million out of school children. 

*Emmanuel Onwubiko is the head of the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA).

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