Analysis: Tackling Child Abuse

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Child abuse is when a parent or caregiver whether through action or failing to act causes injury, death, emotional or serious harm to a child.

Abuse in all its forms is obviously a daily reality for many helpless Nigerian children and only a fraction ever receive help.

The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund, UNICEF says six out of every ten children experience some form of violence while one in four girls and ten percent of boys have been victims of sexual violence.

Forms of child maltreatment include neglect, physical abuse, sexual abuse, exploitation and emotional abuse.

Reports show that violence against children occurs in homes, families, schools, communities and other places where children should feel safe.

Drivers of violence against children are rooted in social norms, including use of violent discipline and community beliefs about witchcraft, all of which increase children’s vulnerability.

Child marriage is another form of child abuse which is prevalent in Nigeria. Available statistics indicates that twenty three million girls were victims, especially those from poor and rural communities.

Analysts have identified factors contributing to child abuse to include poverty, sole parenthood and low educational attainment.

While data suggests a decline of a percent in the prevalence of child marriage since 2003 and a projected further decrease of six percent by 2030, Nigeria’s rapid population growth means that the number of child brides will increase by more than one million by 2030 and double by 2050.

At this juncture, it is pertinent that the bill for the establishment of Nigeria Council for Social Work becomes a reality.

Experts believe that social welfare for children remained one of the elements of child protection system, which plays a vital role in preventing and responding to violence, exploitation, abuse and neglect of children.

Furthermore, poverty which is an underlining factor in child abuse must be tackled headlong.

It is also important that parents be sensitized on the essence of family planning as abuse is more prevalent with children from poor and unplanned background.

Legislation should be strengthened and institutional frameworks put in place to protect children who are vulnerable and exposed to violence, abuse and exploitation.

Government should strengthen capacities like the social welfare and justice services that prevent and respond to violence against children.

Strategies should be adopted to end violence against children, child marriage, female genital cutting and other harmful traditional practices.

Finally, ensuring children in humanitarian situations have timely and sustained access to quality preventive and responsive child protection services is also germane.

Taiwo Akinola

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