By Gabriel Ewepu – Abuja
Non Governmental Organisations under the auspices of Advocates for Dan Almajiri, ADA, have alleged exclusion of over 9.5 million Almajiri children from the government’s palliative under the current lockdown and stay-at-home orders.
This was contained in a statement signed by leaders of five NGOs including Plan International Nigeria, Street Child, Riplington Education Initiative (REI), Almajiri Child Rights Initiatives and ActionAid Nigeria, which alleged that there is no evidence of special attention on issues affecting children, especially the Almajiris and other street children who are more vulnerable in periods of emergency.
The statement reads in part: “As the number of the highly infectious coronavirus disease cases rise to more than 500 across Nigeria, a forum of Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) has called on the government to include Almajiri children in its response plan to prevent a possible outbreak among them.
“We laud the palliative measures rolled out by various levels of governments with support from the private sector, but decry the exclusion of Almajiri children who are already exposed to poor health conditions and the probability of contracting the virus, given their situation.
“According to a 2014 report by UNICEF, the Almajiris constitute 9.5 million of the country’s children within the ages of 3-14. “While it is laudable that government is investing resources to maintain law and order during the pandemic, there is no evidence of special attention to issues affecting children, especially the Almajiris and other street kids, who are more vulnerable in periods of emergency which offer a supportive environment for potential predators.”
The group also explained that Almajiris are itinerant kids sent by their parents from far and near to Quranic teachers to mentor them through their religious knowledge across the country. Most time, they are left to fend for themselves and they survive through street begging and scavenging.
“The Almajiri children are far removed from all major sources of information on COVID-19 and the opportunity of parental guidance on the messages and guidelines. “Implication of this is that they are not able to protect themselves and will not be able to observe any social or physical distancing or access medical services should they contract the virus.”
Meanwhile, the group called for expansion and inclusion of Almajiri children in the social register in order to access food, non-food items, and cash palliatives at strategic locations close to them.
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