The Cross Rivers State Government and the United Nations International Children Education Fund, UNICEF, on Friday launched a campaign to end violence and abuse against children in Calabar.
The campaign launch comes two weeks after Premium Times published the second part of its investigative report, which chronicled cases of child abuse and abandonment in the Cross River capital.
Speaking at the launch of the campaign to end violence against children in the state, the UNICEF representative for Nigeria, Jean Gough, said no fewer than nine million children are sexually abused in Nigeria each year.
Mrs. Gough, who was represented by Chief Child Protector for Nigeria, Rachael Harvey, said a survey of violence against children in Nigeria was carried out last September by the National Population Commission with support from UNICEF and U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
During the survey, it was found that six out of every ten children suffer one or more forms of physical, sexual and emotional violence in Nigeria.
The survey also revealed that victims of violence failed to report such cases to appropriate quarters, thereby making it impossible for them to get redress.
“These victims usually kept silent for fear that even if they report, nothing would be done about their cases, hence their seeing it as part of their childhood,” she said.
“Children do not see violence against them as a problem. It is a tragedy that children can suffer physical, sexual and emotional violence and think it is a normal part of their childhood,” Mrs. Gough said.
She called on government at all levels, NGOs, faith based organisations and the media to play fundamental roles in ending violence against children. She also urged children to always speak up whenever they suffer any form of violence.
Speaking earlier, the state governor, Ben Ayade, described the violence and abuses against children as “unholy” and punishable by law
Mr. Ayade, who was represented by his deputy, Ivara Esu, maintained that being the second state in the country to launch the campaign, Cross River would continue to take holistic measures to end of violence against children.
Mr. Ayade, however, called on a multi-sectoral coordination by all groups and interests to ensure sustainability of the fight.
“Ending violence against children is a societal issue that should not be left to one government institution, the social welfare office alone to handle. It is a responsibility for all of us,” he said.
On her part, the state Commissioner for Women Affairs, Stella Odey, described the campaign launch as significant to the establishment of a state that is free from all forms of violence against children.
With the initiative, Mrs. Odeh noted that children in the state would now grow and excel in their endeavours.
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