Future Of Nigerian Children: UNICEF Pledges to Sustain Collaboration With Government
By Alex Uangbaoje, Kaduna
The United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) has pledged to sustain its partnership with Federal and States Governments toward safeguarding the future of Nigerian children.
Ms Pernille Ironside, UNICEF Deputy Representative in Nigeria, stated this at a workshop on Public Finance for Children in Abuja on Monday, organised for staff of UNICEF Regional offices in Ghana, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria.
According to Ms Ironside, “it is a great pleasure to be here this morning and share some opening remarks.
“Nigeria is almost the largest economy in Africa. Yet, inequalities in income and opportunity continue to rise.
“Today, more than half of Nigeria’s population lives in poverty; Nigeria has one of the world’s highest rates of maternal, child and infant mortality.
“More than 10 million children are out of school and tens of millions of Nigerians still don’t have access to clean water and proper sanitation.
“The situation is grim but not irreversible. I believe we are all aware of the challenges and the urgent need to continue to act,’’ Ironside said.
She said investment in children’s right is an investment for their future.
“Investments in children’s rights are investment in their future and the collective future of this country. Children are the future leaders and engines of the national economy.
“They are the future mothers and fathers and the guardians of the nation.
“Together we can address and change the current status quo and reach the most disadvantaged children and their families.
“We can make a positive change and when Nigeria succeeds, the region and the entire continent have the potential to succeed and ensure no child is left behind,’’ Ironside said.
She said efforts must be made to redress the situation, adding, “reversing the current trend in Nigeria requires child-centred social policies with adequate budgets and laws to provide equitable and comprehensive services to vulnerable children.
“I am delighted to see representation from all the sections in the room committed to supporting government at the Federal and State levels to take this critical step.
“I will also like to acknowledge the good work that is already ongoing in some states such as Bauchi with 15.23 per cent of its total budget toward health in 2018, meeting the AU 2001 Health Financing agreement.
“As you know, the realisation of human rights, the foundation of equitable and sustainable development, requires a good understanding of gaps in the results chain that hinder achievement of better outcomes for people,’’ Ironside said.
She noted that, “these bottlenecks typically translate into policy formulation, timely budget allocation, release and execution, and service delivery in the field.
“Being better equipped on the issues of public financial management, and especially budget process, makes it possible to better contribute to human development and particularly the realis“Government budget, main instrument for expressing the political will of the priority areas of development, directly and indirectly affects the lives of populations and families.
“Unfortunately, the often-observed mismatch between the actual development priorities identified in national development strategies and budget allocations, is a major bottleneck to achieving development results.
“Moreover, even in some cases of adequate allocation of public funds to specific development programmes, for example for the benefit of the poor, vulnerable, children, minorities, poor management results into very little changes in the situation of the targeted populations significantly affects achieving the desired results.’’
Ironside had made it a priority to strengthening national capacities for analysis on government budget toward attaining social development.
“Mindful of this, UNICEF has in recent years placed the question of strengthening national capacities for analysis, management and advocacy around the government budget, at the heart of its priority interventions in social policies.
“I believe this meeting will be an excellent platform to exchange ideas and foster knowledge sharing among us all while shaping our work to boost key results for children through effective and efficient public finance management. “I would like to reiterate our firm commitment to provide continued support in the field of social inclusion with focus on state budgeting which is key to ensure sustainable key results for children.
“In this regard, I encourage participants to identify key actions to be implemented, through a clear road map, for promotion of quantitative and qualitative improvement of public sectors at the Federal and State levels,’’ she said.