A NON-GOVERNMENTAL organisation that promotes human rights and tackles poverty, ActionAid Nigeria, AAN, has launched a project to bring an end to the killing of newborn babies, especially twins, in the Federal Capital Territory.
Though it was kicked off in January, the project, titled Mobilising Actions Towards the Abolition of Infanticide (MATAI), was formally unveiled at an event that took place in Abuja on Tuesday. It is funded both by the European Union and AAN.
The event also featured the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between ActionAid and the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC).
Ene Obi, AAN’s country director, said in her welcome remarks that it is sad twins and children who are generally products of multiple births are still being killed in communities all over Nigeria. She explained that the project is a collaboration between AAN, the NHRC, and Vine Heritage Homes, which caters for over 150 children in Abuja who were in danger of being killed due to cultural practices.
“ActionAid does not believe we need to work alone. By working together with many stakeholders, you can achieve more,” she said.
According to her, AAN has been working with the National Human Rights Commission, traditional rulers, area councils, and the communities.
“ActionAid is working in this area, but we are not government. We can only support the work that government is doing. When we find people with this kind of vulnerability, we go there.”
The country director said though the project has a limited lifespan, AAN hopes to continue supporting the activities of VHH beyond that period.
Giving an overview of MATAI, the NGO’s Programme Advisor, Ubong Tommy, said over a period of 36 months, it is intended to cover 57 communities from five area councils in the FCT, including AMAC, Abaji, Gwagwalada, Kuje, and Kwali.
“One of the specific objectives of the project is to ensure the implementation and monitoring of existing legal and policy frameworks that address infanticide practises in the FCT,” he said.
Others are to raise awareness in the FCT on infanticide practices, especially among practising communities and to establish mechanisms to safeguard unborn babies and infants who are vulnerable.
Through the initiatives, AAN will be reaching out to community leaders, birth attendants, caregivers, media organisations, as well as various government establishments such as the National Assembly, FCT Social Development Secretariat, Child Rights Implementation Committees, and National Population Commission.
Already, the organisation said it has trained 75 traditional birth attendants across various communities using the Community Health Influencers, Promoters and Services (CHIPS) manual of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA).
It has conducted a baseline survey and has also acquired a piece of land for VHH so that it may build a school and dormitory.
While delivering his goodwill message, the Executive Secretary of NHRC, Tony Ojukwu, said the killing of infants is largely due to illiteracy and the lack of formal education.
“For us in human rights, infanticide is a practice against natural justice, equity, and good conscience and hence not one that should be encouraged by any reasonable mind in modern society,” he said.
He added: “It is cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment against children. It also constitutes violence and harmful practice against children considering the provisions of the Child Rights Act 2003.
“The National Human Rights Commission and Action Aid Nigeria are poised to combat the ugly practices through sensitisation campaigns and a commitment towards eradicating infanticide wherever it is found.”