Boosting wellbeing of children in rural communities
The United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) has signed a partnership with IHS Nigeria, the Nigerian subsidiary of IHS Towers, to empower and strengthen the capacity of local governments and rural communities, including local development councils, religious and traditional leaders, to adopt child-centred attitudes, behaviours and practices and improve access to basic services that promote child well-being and development.
The partnership is in support of a Child-Friendly Community Initiative (CFCI) on which UNICEF is working with the Government of Nigeria.
Several reports have shown that children and women in Nigeria face multiple deprivations and challenges, many rooted in poverty and inequality, with millions of them vulnerable to disease, malnutrition, lack of education and numerous violations of their rights.
Communication Officer, UNICEF Nigeria, Blessing Ejiofor, and the Communications Manager, IHS Nigeria, Chukwuweta Uriah, told journalists that the aims of the CFCI is to help accelerate tangible and sustained improvements for children in rural Nigeria who are consistently experiencing the highest levels of deprivation and poverty, with a view towards Nigeria achieving the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.
UNICEF Nigeria Representative, Peter Hawkins, said: “Vulnerable children tend to suffer from multiple overlapping deprivations that are often mutually reinforcing.
“UNICEF believes a holistic and integrated approach is required that actively supports communities and local government with child-centered planning and service delivery, informed decision-making and corresponding attitudes, behaviours, and practices that lead to better outcomes for children.”
IHS Towers Co-founder, Senior Vice President, and IHS Nigeria Chief Executive Officer, Mohamad Darwish, commended UNICEF’s efforts in driving this initiative. He said, “Our four pillars – Ethics, People, Environment and Education – have been critical in driving our sustainability efforts within local communities in which we operate throughout the country and we are delighted to partner with UNICEF to continue addressing the needs of the most vulnerable individuals in-line with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.”
According to UNICEF, a child friendly community is one where every child receives the nutrients, dietary diversity and stimulation that they need to develop; where every child is fully immunised, has a birth certificate, is protected from violence, exploitation, and abuse, has access to quality health care, education and clean water; where the community is certified as open defecation free; and where parents, caregivers, young people and community leaders are informed about and actively engaged in promoting the well-being and development of children.
Communities will be sensitised on child rights and child-centered attitudes, behaviours, and practices and means of improving access to basic services that promote child well being and development. Community-level structures and institutions will also be strengthened through training to actively plan, manage services and maintain/sustain created assets.
“The Child-Friendly Community Initiative will be accelerated across Nigeria with the active engagement and support of a diverse range of stakeholders; the private sector has a key role to play as well. We are delighted that IHS shares this vision and is the first company to join the initiative, demonstrating how the private sector can help boost development for children,” said Peter Hawkins.