Universal Children’s Day: A Wake-Up Call on Child Rights Violations

Despite enormous progress realized for children since the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1989, the rights of millions of children are being violated every day, UNICEF said today as it marks ongoing celebrations following Universal Children’s Day on Sunday.

“With conflicts, crises, and crushing poverty putting millions of children’s lives and futures at risk, protecting child rights is more urgent than ever – and a critical key to building stronger, more stable societies,” said UNICEF Nigeria Representative Mohamed Fall. “We need to stop these violations by investing more in reaching the most vulnerable children, or pay the price in slower growth, greater inequality, and less stability,” he added.

Nigeria ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) in 1991. The world’s most rapidly and widely ratified human rights treaty, the CRC sets out a basic, universal standard for a healthy, protected, decent childhood for every human being.

Since ratification, Nigeria passed the groundbreaking Child’s Rights Act in 2003 enshrining the rights of the CRC in national law. 23 of Nigeria’s 36 states have subsequently passed state-wide child rights laws. However, while Nigeria is making progress in protecting children’s rights, for many children, these rights are not yet a reality. Six out of every ten children suffer violence before the age of 18; 43% of girls are married before their 18th birthday and 17% are married before they turn 15; 10.5 million children are out of school; and 41 children have been used in so-called “suicide” attacks in the conflict in the northeast of the country.

Despite marked progress for children globally in recent decades, nearly six million children around the world still die every year from preventable causes – and children from poor households are twice as likely as children from wealthier homes to die before reaching their fifth birthdays.

Nearly 50 million children have been uprooted – 28 million of them displaced by conflict. Children trapped in besieged areas – including Syria, Iraq, and northern Nigeria are at greater risk of having their rights violated, with their schools, hospitals and homes under attack. Globally, around 250 million live in countries affected by conflict.

Almost 385 million children live in extreme poverty around the world and over a quarter of a billion school-aged children are not learning. Nearly 300 million children live in areas with the most toxic levels of outdoor air pollution – six or more times higher than international guidelines.

Next month UNICEF will mark 70 years of working to bring life-saving aid, long-term support and hope to children whose lives and futures are endangered by conflict, crises, poverty, inequality and discrimination.

19 Nigerian authors, including Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Toni Kan, Ayo Soogunro, Igoni Barret and Ifeoma Theodre Jnr. have taken part in a global literary campaign to celebrate Universal Children’s Day and UNICEF’s 70th anniversary, sharing their wishes for children. The “Tiny Stories” written by the authors are dedicated #foreverychild in seven-line narratives that are being shared on the authors’ own and UNICEF’s social media platforms. Child marriage, child abuse, access to clean water and education and the right to dream are the recurring themes from the Nigerian writers. As well as on the authors’ sites, the Tiny Stories will be rolled out on the UNICEF Nigeria Facebook page over the coming weeks, leading up to UNICEF’s 70th anniversary.

“Every child has the right to grow up healthy and strong, to be educated and protected, and to have a fair chance in life,” said Mohamed Fall, “Our commitment to child rights must be matched with action for every child.”

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