Flood displaces 650,000 Nigerian children in four years: UNICEF
No fewer than 650,000 Nigerians have been displaced by flooding in four years across Nigeria, according to Gerida Birukila, the UNICEF chief of field office in Kaduna State.
Ms Birukila said this on the occasion of the commemoration of World Children’s Day on Monday in Kaduna.
Represented by Joyce Eli, the UNICEF chief said that the displacement happened between 2016 and 2021.
The theme for this year’s celebration is “Impact of climate change on children”.
Ms Birukila further noted that more than 3.1 million children could be displaced by riverine floods over the next 30 years
She said Nigeria was the second worst country worldwide in terms of children’s exposure and vulnerability to the impacts of climate change, scoring 8.5 out of 10 on UNICEF’s Children’s Climate Risk Index (alongside Chad).
“Nigeria’s child population of more than 110 million accounts for 10 per cent of the 1 billion children worldwide who live in extremely high-risk countries from the effects of climate change.
“Nigerian children are disproportionately affected by climate change.
“Rising temperatures, flooding, drought and intense storms are the most serious climate-related threats to children in Nigeria.
“Among the direct health effects are physical dangers that lead to injury, heat stress, diminished access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene services, and an increase in waterborne diseases such as cholera, diarrhoea and malaria,” she said.
Ms Birukila added that environmental degradation and climate change also contributed to malnutrition due to a shortfall in food availability.
She said, “This contributes to increasing poverty and displacement.”
According to her, energy poverty in Nigeria is a cross-cutting issue that affects child rights.
Ms Birukila lamented, “Only 55.4 per cent of the total population in Nigeria benefits from access to electricity.
“While urban areas have much greater access to electricity at 83.9 per cent, the rural population has to cope with just 24.6 per cent access.
“From a child rights perspective, the impacts on learning, water access and health are of utmost concern.
“The lack of climate-resilient sanitation services poses a substantial public health hazard for Nigerian children.”
The UNICEF official stated that diseases could spread across communities when people lacked access to safely managed sanitation services
Ms Birukila said, “Children and their families are also at risk of reverting to open defecation in drought-prone areas of Nigeria when water shortages make the cleaning and maintenance of toilets difficult or render water-based toilets non-functional.”
She added that unless urgent action is taken, years of progress in the sanitation sector could be undermined by climate change.
Ms Birukila further said that opportunities existed for sanitation to contribute to climate resilience in the WASH, agriculture, and energy sectors.
She added that sanitation systems could be adapted to resist climate shocks and stressors and safely managed to contribute to climate change mitigation.
Speaking further, Ms Birukila said that the safe use of sanitation wastewater and sludge from sanitation systems for irrigation and energy recovery had a large unmet potential in Nigeria to contribute to adaptation and mitigation in the agriculture and energy sectors.
She reiterated UNICEF’s deep commitment to addressing climate change, adding that in Nigeria, they developed a Climate Action Plan (2023–2027).
Ms Birukila said that the action plan focused on mitigating climate risks and adapting solutions to climate shocks through a multi-disciplinary, collective effort that engaged children and youth and empowered local communities and authorities at all levels.
“Some of the ways that UNICEF Nigeria is working to address climate change is through the installation of climate-resilient infrastructure for water, sanitation and hygiene services in schools and communities.
“We also solarize healthcare facilities in local governments with the most vulnerable children.
“UNICEF is also working towards the integration of climate change education in schools and supporting young people to engage in community-based climate action, such as tree planting and waste management activities,” she said.
The UNICEF top official also said that it looked forward to expanding its partnerships to advance the rights of children on a healthy planet.
She listed seven priority areas in which their collaboration was anchored with other bodies in the country.
They include government authorities, development partners, CSOs, youth and children-based organisations, and private sector players.
Also, the Kaduna State Commissioner for Human Services and Social Development, Rabi Salisu, assured children of the improvement of their social well-being.
According to her, the state has a law that protects children and an implementation committee that takes care of children’s welfare.
Speaking on climate change, Ms Salisu said it affected children, women and people with disabilities in areas prone to flooding and natural disasters.
She assured the children that the state would launch a children’s parliament where the plight and concerns of children would be addressed.
The commissioner also restated the state government’s commitment to ending street begging and its continued engagement in the enrollment of out-of-school children.
The highlight of the event was the unveiling of physically challenged schoolchildren.
The children later spoke about their plight and solicited commitment from various government stakeholders on ways to better their lives and standard of education.
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