A survey has shown that Nigeria lost over $6.1 billion or 1.07 per cent of its GDP through violence against children between 2014 and 2015.
UNICEF’s Child Protection Specialist, Maryam Enyiazu, quoted the findings of the survey on Tuesday at a two-day media dialogue on social work professionalisation bill in Enugu.
The survey was conducted in 2014/2015 by UNICEF and the Nigerian government at federal and state levels but was validated this year July.
According to Mrs Enyiazu, it is important for government at all levels to unite against violence against children, She called on the National Assembly taking a second look at the social professionalisation bill under consideration by the lawmakers.
She said Nigeria needs a strong, regulated and standardised workforce in the field of social welfare to thoroughly tackle social problems and prevent the huge loss from violence against children and the vulnerable.
The social work regulatory bill titled “National Council for Social Work” was passed by the House of Representatives in 2016.
But the bill is still awaiting further legislative process at the National Assembly, before it goes to President Muhammadu Buhari for his assent.
Social workers are mental health professionals who help people with broad range of issues, including psychological, financial, health, relationship, and substance abuse problems.
Social work, as an academic discipline and profession, concerns itself with individuals, families, groups and communities in an effort to enhance social functioning and overall well-being.
Mrs Enyiazu said the nation is yet to understand the need for social welfare workers in the country, noting that underfunding, lack of regulation and misunderstanding are key factors militating against social welfare workforce.
“By committing to achieving the SDGs by 2030, UN member states affirm the fundamental rights of children to be protected from all forms of violence, abuse or exploitation,” she said.
The UNICEF expert said social welfare workforce is critical to achieving the 17 targets of the Sustainable Development Goals.
“The services of Social welfare workers improve the lives of children and families by addressing,education,health,justice,migration and protection from violence,” she said.
Mrs Enyiazu said a major way to seek legitimacy and raise status of social work as a profession in Nigeria is through the establishment of regulatory mechanism to ensure licensing, certification and registration.
“UNICEF has supported the federal government to develop a national plan of action on social welfare workforce,” Mrs Enyiazu said.
Speaking at the event, the Head of Child Rights Information Bureau of the Federal Ministry of Information, Olumide Osanyipeju, said the profession is characterised by low pay and unsatisfactory work conditions.
UNICEF head of Enugu Office, Ibrahim Conteh, said the bill for professionalisation of Social Work in Nigeria seeks to establish a regulatory legal framework to improve the standard of practice for anyone wishing to practice social work .
He said there could not have been a better time, “as the country copes with some socio-economic challenges that continue to undermine sustainable development for vulnerable children and their families”
“Issues of high prevalence of violence against children, conflicts, terrorism, high number of out of school children, unemployment rate amongst other challenges, no doubt, highlight the importance of overhauling the social work profession in Nigeria to enable it play its critical role of supporting the vulnerable population,” Mr Conteh said.
Also, the national president of Medical Social Workers of Nigeria, Abubakar Bichi, said although social workers are everywhere to assist in emergencies, the profession does not have an enabling law like its counterparts.
“We, the social workers, are everywhere, we attend to crash victims, emergency cases, indigent patients and psycho-social counseling. Victims of war, natural disaster and flood are supposed to have social workers to give them psycho-social care because they are traumatised. We should imitate international best practices,” he concluded.