Nigeria currently ranks in the bottom 10 globally in measurements of children’s survival, health, education and nutrition, a report by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has shown.
The report said Nigeria ranks 174 out of 180 countries, just below Afghanistan, Sierra Leone and South Sudan based on a “child flourishing index”.
The ranking is based on factors including child survival and well-being such as health, education, nutrition, equity and income gaps.
In a statement sent to PREMIUM TIMES, UNICEF said the report released on Wednesday, was convened by the World Health Organisation (WHO), UNICEF and The Lancet. It was funded by Bills and Melinda Gates Foundation.
New global index
The report, which is titled ‘A Future for the World’s Children’ includes a new global index of 180 countries, comparing performance on child flourishing.
UNICEF said the report showed that the health and future of every child and adolescent worldwide is under immediate threat from ecological degradation, climate change and exploitative marketing practises “that push heavily processed fast food, sugary drinks, alcohol and tobacco at children”.
The report also said “no single country is adequately protecting children’s health, their environment and their futures”.
According to the report, while the poorest countries need to do more to support their children’s ability to live healthy lives, excessive carbon emissions – disproportionately from wealthier countries – threaten the future of all children.
It said if global warming exceeds 4°C by the year 2100 in line with current projections, this would lead to devastating health consequences for children, due to rising ocean levels, heatwaves, the proliferation of diseases like malaria and dengue, and malnutrition.
The report shows that children in Norway, The Republic of Korea, and the Netherlands have the best chances at survival and well-being, while children in the Central African Republic, Chad, Somalia, Niger and Mali face the worst odds.
Overall, the report found that the top 10 rankings on the child flourishing index were the countries of Norway, ranked first overall, South Korea, Netherlands, France, Ireland, Denmark, Japan, Belgium, Iceland, United Kingdom
The United States ranked as number 39.
The bottom 10 on the child flourishing index, according to the report were: The Central African Republic, Chad, Somalia, Niger, Mali, Guinea, Nigeria, South Sudan, Sierra Leone and Afghanistan.
On measurements of sustainability, the report found that the top 10 were Burundi ranked first overall, Chad, Somalia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Central African Republic, Malawi, Rwanda, Mali, Niger and Madagascar.
“This demonstrates how far we still need to go in Nigeria to ensure children can live healthy lives in an environment where they can thrive. We know that investing in the future of our children, giving them an education and making sure they are healthy and receive the right nutrition, works to provide a better future for everyone. We all have a responsibility to do everything we can to protect the health and future of every Nigerian child,” Claes Johansson, UNICEF Nigeria Representative said.
“More than two billion people live in countries where development is hampered by humanitarian crises, conflicts, and natural disasters, problems increasingly linked with climate change,” said Minister Awa Coll-Seck from Senegal, Co-Chair of the Commission.
In order to protect the children and improve outcomes among children, the report calls for countries to stop excessive carbon emissions; tighten regulations around commercial marketing of junk food, alcohol and other harmful products; introduce new policies to protect children’s health, nutrition and rights; and incorporate children’s voices into policy decisions, among other recommendations.
The commission also urged countries to stop CO2 emissions with urgency, “to ensure children have a future on this planet”.
“Place children and adolescents at the centre of efforts to achieve sustainable development. New policies and investment in all sectors to work towards child health and rights, Incorporate children’s voices into policy decisions and Tighten national regulation of harmful commercial marketing that is supported by a new Optional Protocol to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child,” the commission advised
“The opportunity is great. The evidence is available. The tools are at hand. From heads-of-state to local government, from UN leaders to children themselves, this Commission calls for the birth of a new era for child and adolescent health. It will take courage and commitment to deliver. It is the supreme test of our generation,” Editor-in-Chief of The Lancet family of journals, Richard Horton, said.
Also, the UNICEF Executive Director, Henrietta Fore, said from the climate crisis, obesity and harmful commercial marketing, children around the world are having to contend with threats that were unimaginable just a few generations ago.
“It is time for a rethink on child health, one which places children at the top of every government’s development agenda and puts their well-being above all considerations.”