Nigeria loses $6.1 billion to child abuse, others, says UNICEF.
•Seeks end, prioritization of social workers
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has said Nigeria loses over $6.1 billion yearly to violence against children, urging stakeholders to unite in ending the menace.
UNICEF’s Child Protection Specialist, Maryam Enyiazu, who spoke at a media dialogue on Social Work Professionalisation Bill in Abuja, called on the National Assembly to expedite action on the piece of legislation for onward transmission to President Muhammadu Buhari for his assent.
She argued that in view of the prevailing challenges and the huge population of the vulnerable, Nigeria needed a strong social welfare workforce to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 2030.
Enyiazu explained that the $6.1 billion loss was 1.07 percent of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
The UNICEF official pointed out that the country currently has only 8,497 trained social workers, describing the figure as grossly inadequate for a 180 million population.
She said: “Over the years social work has not been given desired attention. The term is greatly misunderstood in Nigeria, under-resourced, under-funded and does not have the support of key stakeholders.
“We are talking about a population of over 180 million with less than 9,000 professional social workers. The challenges are huge.”
Enyiazu listed some of the issues to include child protection, violence against children, people with disabilities and families in need of support.
She noted that not until the profession is regulated and people licensed to do social work, the problem would remain unabated nationwide.
The Deputy Director, Child Right Information Bureau, Federal Ministry of Information and Culture, Olumide Osanyinpeju, said UNICEF had been in the forefront of ensuring that the bill for the establishment of Nigeria Council for Social Work was a reality.
He observed that social welfare for children was one of the elements of the child protection system, which plays a vital role in preventing and responding to violence, exploitation, abuse, and neglect of children.
Osanyinpeju lamented that social workers have been given less attention across the federation, adding that the profession “is characterized with low pay and unsatisfactory work conditions, including limited office space, and lack of transportation and telephones which have contributed to lack of commitment and a struggle for professional identity.”