Statement by Daouda Toure, UN Nigeria Resident Coordinator at the 2015 Lions Day with the United Nations, Abuja

Mar 5, 2015

The UN family in Nigeria is delighted to participate, once again, in this special annual event with the Lions Club. I wish to commend the leadership and members of this honourable Club, first, for the effective planning of this event, and second, for the invitation. The theme: ‘Children in Need’, a subject that is so relevant in our context here in Nigeria. 

Let me restate that, the existing cooperation between the United Nations and International Association of Lions Club dates back to the early days of the existence of the UN- 70 years this year (older than all of us in this hall). As UN, we are celebrating this milestone with the theme: Strong UN, Better World!; We could not have made it this far and achieved so much without partnerships like the one we share with the Lions Club.

Mr. Chairman, we have partnered in pursuit of our shared goals. The United Nations continues to benefit from the efforts of Lions Club members around the world who are supporting our work to prevent disease, end poverty, promote education, empower women, and protect the environment. Together, we are making a meaningful difference in the lives of vulnerable people including children in Nigeria and across the world. 

Since my colleagues from UNICEF, ILO, WHO and UNESCO have shared with you some of the activities and programmes of the UN on the theme in respect to Nigeria, I will touch on few points. 

As you all know, in any war or conflict situation, women and children are the most affected. We are all witnesses to the horrible experience of children in need - in the conflict situations around the globe, for instance, in Syria, Ukraine, Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Libya and South Sudan. 

Here in Nigeria, there is no doubt that, the security challenges and the on-going conflict in North-east is having a profound effect on children. Since 2011, the insurgents have expanded its targets of attack to public and private schools providing education to children. Teachers and school children have been killed and abducted and school facilities looted and destroyed, families broken and livelihoods disrupted. 

We all are still waiting for the release the over 200 girls abducted from Chibok, and many others abducted before and after, close to a year now. Available information indicates that, the Adamawa, Yobe and Borno State Universal Basic Education authorities recorded the destruction and damage of a total of 338 schools, as well as the killing of at least 196 teachers and 314 school children for the period. 

The continuing and explicit threats of attack on schools in all three States in the North-East has resulted into limited and sometimes complete inability to access to learning facilities and environments; Schools have been closed, teachers have fled from communities and schools, and children have been withdrawn from schools. For example, in Borno State, authorities took the decision in March 2014 to close all primary and secondary schools. The situation remained for long, leaving approximately 253,000 children out of school.  The good news is that some schools in Maiduguri have reopened since last October.

Of the estimated 1.2million Internally Displaced People (IDPs) in Nigeria the bulk of them are women and children.  The IDPs are in dire need of basic necessity of life including security and protection; health care; food security; livelihoods; shelter and other non-food items; their sanitation needs remain huge even as we speak.  We have great concern for malnourished children and the weak development indicators in the areas affected by this conflict.

The children in need, be IDPs or victims of circumstances in Nigeria, need more support  from us all --   government, development partners and other stakeholders such as  the Lions Club. It is in this vein that the United Nations family has been working with like-minded partners and government in providing development and humanitarian interventions for children in Nigeria, especially in the North East.   Let us invest in children for  if they know that  they have a stake in the society, they will be the first line of defence.

Through the UN Integrated support Package (ISP) for NE, we have enhanced community sensitization and support of psychosocial counselling through recently trained community members. Trainings continue to benefit a targeted 600 volunteers in local government areas. Counselling teams and mobiles centres have been established to ensure wider reach to affected families. 

State level Humanitarian Support Groups have enhanced capacity through additional personnel who were recently trained and are already providing support in various health-related services. Additional support includes provision of kits to enhance health care provision including reproductive health. An estimated 1,7million women, men and children were provided with Emergency Health Kits in Borno and Yobe states in 2014. 

The UN family together with Government and other partners have set up the Safe School initiative to address pressing needs of children with transfer of some children from NE schools to Unity schools in other states. The Multi-Donor Trust Fund set up has attracted over USD 2 million from the US government, and we invite private sector organizations to partner in this respect. The fund will assist build social services and improve the environment for education in the most affected parts of the country.

Ladies and gentlemen, some great strides have been made by UN and partners but there are huge gaps in bringing hope to many children in need. This is where the partnership with Lions Club and similar organizations becomes imperative. The UN family in Nigeria will continue with its support to government and people of Nigeria to fight poverty and create a future of hope for all.

Let me end by congratulating the Lions Club for today’s event. I trust our partnership will move to the next level in the years to come for the benefit of the ordinary Nigerians, especially children in need.

Thank you for your kind attention.

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