Nearly 90 million children in the world under one year old live in countries where fathers are not entitled to paid paternity leave, a new analysis by the United Nations Children Funds (UNICEF) has revealed.
According to a press statement by UNICEF on Thursday, the analysis disclosed 92 countries do not have national policies in place for new fathers to get paid time off with their newborn babies.
These countries include India and Nigeria, both of which have high infant populations.
It noted that other countries with high infant populations like Brazil and the Democratic Republic of the Congo have national paid paternity leave policies.
According to the statement, evidence suggests when fathers bond with their babies from the beginning of life, they are more likely to play a more active role in their child’s development.
“Research also suggests that when children positively interact with their fathers, they have better psychological health, self-esteem and life-satisfaction in the long-term.
“Positive and meaningful interaction with mothers and fathers from the very beginning helps to shape children’s brain growth and development for life, making them healthier and happier, and increasing their ability to learn.”
The representative of UNICEF Nigeria, Mohammed Fall, said all that parents need to care for their children are time, resources and information, which can be provided by the government.
He urged government to implement national family-friendly policies that support early childhood development, including paid paternity leave.
He said the government’s recent commitment to extend maternity leave from 12 to 16 weeks indicates that the momentum for family-friendly policies in Nigeria is growing.
He calls for investments in the provision of support services to caregivers as well as quality pre-primary education and good nutrition for children, as they serve as investments in healthy and productive future Nigerian generations.
The new analysis forms part of UNICEF’s Super Dads campaign, now in its second year, which aims to break down barriers preventing fathers from playing an active role in their young children’s development.
The campaign moment celebrates Father’s Day on 17 June and focuses on the importance of love, play, protection and good nutrition for the healthy development of young children’s brains.
However, in Nigeria, a bill for optional paternity leave to married male employees in private and public service was rejected.
The bill, which was sponsored by Edward Pwajok (Plateau-APC), did not scale through its second reading in the House of Representatives.
The Lancet’s Series, Advancing Early Childhood Development: from Science to Scale, launched in October 2016, revealed nearly 250 million children under 5 were at risk of poor development due to stunting and extreme poverty.
The Series also revealed that programmes promoting nurturing care — health, nutrition, responsive caregiving, security and safety, and early learning — can cost as little as 50 cents per capita per year when combined with existing health services.