COVID-19: Include Almajiri children in your response plan, Forum urges FG

A group of  six Civil Society Oragnisations (CSOs) under the auspices of Advocates for Dan Almajiri has called for the inclusion of Almajiri children in the Federal Government’s ongoing stimulus plans as the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic continues to spread across the country.

The CSOs include Plan International Nigeria, Street Child, Riplington Education Initiative (REI), Almajiri Child Rights Initiatives and ActionAid Nigeria.

According to the group, the need to include the Almajiri children in the government’s response plan was necessary in order to prevent a possible outbreak among the children as they are vulnerable.

In a statement signed by the Advocates for Dan Almajiri obtained by The ICIR, the forum “lauded the palliative measures rolled out by various levels of governments with support from the private sector.”

The group, however, “decried the exclusion of Almajiri children who are already exposed to poor health conditions and the probability of contracting the virus, given their situation”.

“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 Almajiri and other street kids, who are more vulnerable in periods of emergency which offer a supportive environment for potential predators,” the group said.

“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 contact the virus.”

The Forum called  for the expansion of the social register to include the Almajiri children to provide food, non-food items and cash palliatives for them at strategic locations close to them.

    Other submissions made in the press statement  included provision of temporary shelter and proper safety and protection of the children on transit in line with child protection and safeguarding principles as contained in the Convention on the Rights of Children, African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child and other conventions that the country has signed and ratified.

    This is coming after the Federal Government through Sadiya Farouq, the Minster of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management, last week disclosed disclosed that People Living with Disabilities (PLWDS) would be considered in the new tranche of palliatives to cushion the effects of lock down on Nigerians.

    Almajiri kids 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.

    A factsheet report by the National Council for the Welfare of the Destitute (NCWD) pegs the total number of Almajiri to seven million. The system lacks things like good teachers and basic amenities like proper clothing and shelter.  According to a 2014 report by UNICEF, the Almajiri children constitute 9.5 million of the country’s children within the ages of 3-14.

    Samad Uthman is a multimedia journalist with the International Centre for Investigative Reporting. He tweets @sarmerdk2 and can be shot through [email protected]

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