Children need a chance to speak, express themselves
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JUNE 16th is the Day of the African Child. It was first established by the former Organisation of African Unity (OAU) in 1991. The day aims at raising awareness for the situation of children in Africa and on the need for continuing improvement in education.

It encourages people’s spirit of abundance to share something special with a child in Africa. According to The African Report on Child Wellbeing 2016, Africa has made significant strides in strengthening governance to improve public services.

African governments have also become more childfriendly, as elaborated in the previous edition of this report, through working to put in place laws and policies pertinent to children and increasing budgetary allocations to sectors benefiting them.

While these efforts are commendable, implementation remains a major challenge in promoting child rights and wellbeing in Africa. The findings of this report show that implementation of children’s rights is not getting the necessary attention in national development planning and resource allocation.

Inadequacy of implementation across countries is manifested in the huge numbers of children who die needlessly of preventable causes; languish in poverty and are malnourished and deprived of healthcare, early childhood care and development services.

It also shows the absence of effective birth registration systems and child protection mechanisms in large parts of Africa and the continued marginalisation of highly vulnerable groups of children, such as those with disabilities and those without parental care.

The reality of the Africa child is this, there are 34 million out-of-school children in Africa – more than half the total number in the world – with limited prospect of them entering school according to UNESCO Institute of Statistics 2016.

Girls make up 54 per cent of the out-of-school child population and children with disabilities drop out more than their non-disabled peers. Child poverty, although declining slightly, is still very high in Africa. It is estimated that more than 53 per cent of children in sub-Saharan Africa lives in extreme poverty, meaning on less than 1.90 dollars a day).

If the current trend continues, nine out of ten of the world’s children surviving on less than 1.90 dollars a day will be in Africa in 2030. Recent studies show that poverty is not just more pervasive in Africa than in other regions, but also more intense, particularly south of the Sahara.

About 247 million out of 368 million children under 18 in 30 African countries have experienced two to five deprivations that threaten their survival and development.

With its devastating effects on physical, cognitive and social development, child poverty remains a major challenge to realizing the rights and wellbeing of African children.

Significant proportions of African children do not have access to essential vaccines for deadly childhood illnesses. For instance, only one in every five children in South Sudan has been immunised against measles.

Even in better resource-endowed countries such as Equatorial Guinea, more than half of all children (56 per cent) had no access to such vaccines, according to UNICEF 2016.

There is high prevalence of child stunting across Africa. The absolute number of affected children increased by 23 per cent over the last 25 years, from 47 million in 1990 to 58 million in 2014, reports WHO and World Bank Group 2015.

This year like many other years, the International Day of the African Child has been commemorated in different parts of the world including Tanzania and by different organisations.

The European Union being one of them stated that children are less likely to suffer long-term consequences from challenges facing them if they get early attention and the requisite psycho-social support. Head of the European Union Delegation during this year’s International Day of the African Child (IDAC) celebrations in Tanzania, Mr Roeland Van De Geer, said that if children are given the chance to speak for themselves and get the needed help, their overall welfare will be greatly improved.

“Children’s welfare cannot be improved unless the society allows changes associated with their behavior. It is only through listening, talking and giving time to children to air their views while sharing their concerns that the society will be able to build a robust and buoyant generation,” De Geer noted.

Buoyed by this year’s theme, ‘Child Welfare: Success, Challenges, Opportunities and Solutions’, the speakers at the function lamented on the deplorable state of African children’s welfare, mostly occasioned by neglect and limited exposure to self-knowledge.

“Charity begins at home”, De Geer noted, challenging the parents/guardians to give their children a platform, at a tender age, to express themselves. Supporting De Geer’s sentiments, Tigo’s Corporate Communications Manager, Woinde Shisael said that children need equal opportunities/platforms which will nurture them into productive adults.

“We need to ensure that all children get equal opportunities for the society to achieve sustainable social-economic development; we need to prepare them to be responsible future citizens,” Ms Shisael said.

She noted that as part of Tigo’s social investment programs, the company recently launched an app which is now being used collaboratively by United Nations Children’s Education Fund (Unicef) and Registration Insolvency and Trusteeship Agency (Rita) for mobile birth registration.

“Under the new app, the two organizations now have a roadmap which is used to register and provide birth certificates via mobile phones, thus eliminating the bureaucracy associated with the previous registration process. She revealed that last year, Tigo granted $12,000 to support a local Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) called C-Sema, which encourages parents and children to easily report incidents of abuse through a ‘Child Helpline’ platform, enabling parents and children to report or seek advice in case of any concern/ eventuality.

“We contributed the money to C-Sema, because the NGO runs the national child helpline call center by providing counseling and linking children in particular to the appropriate social services in collaboration with the government of Tanzania,” Woinde explained.

On his part, C-Sema Chief Executive Officer, Joel Kiiya said: “Our main objective is to create and provide avenues for children to speak and get a positive feedback from those listening to them, be they parents, teachers or guardians.”

Present at the event was also the Unilever Country Director, Akofa Ata, who explained that his company, being keen on children’s healthy dietary habits, had introduced such nutritious products as Blue Band that bolsters the children’s healthy growth from a tender age.

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