The United Nations Children’s Fund has said that Anambra state ranks highest in number of out of school children in the South East zone.
This was disclosed by the UNICEF Enugu Chief Field Officer, Mrs Juliet Chiluwe during a 3-day stakeholders engagement forum organised by Ministry of Budget and Economic Planning in collaboration with UNICEF.
Mrs Chiluwe, who was represented by Acting Field Officer, Dr. Olusoji Akinleye referenced multiple indicators of 2016 and 2021 mixed survey, expressing concerns over worrying indicators in the state as captured by National Planning Commission.
She said the state ranked highest in the zone with 23%, adding that only 32% of primary school aged children enter primary 1 in the state.
She said that while Anambra is not the worst in the country, there are areas of improvement which the Organization thinks a deliberate, robust and all-inclusive policy on Social protection as being initiated in the workshop will help a lot to address.
“From the records, Anambra is the only state in Southeast where Penta 3 coverage declined within the period in view, while the rest states increased remarkably.
“Anambra has the highest zero dose cumulative population in the zone, precisely 39,805 children of under 2 yet to receive first dose of Penta vaccine.
“Access to handwashing facilities in the state is low, and still reducing further, went down from 30% in 2016 to 19% in 2021. These are all indicators of poverty.
“Again, access to child education in Anambra is below 70percent and second lowest in Southeast. Out of school children is highest in the region with 23%. Only 32% of primary school aged children enter primary 1 in the state.
“The state also has the highest cumulative under 5 population birth registration as many as 296000 plus children of under 5 are yet to have their births registered, Actually the highest in Southeast.
“By implication, these children are being denied of their rights of identity as their birth registration are not documented”.
She assured of United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) commitment to an all-inclusive social protection policy that would address various forms of vulnerabilities in Anambra State.
Acknowledging government’s efforts in improving citizens lives, including free antenatal care, employment of health workers and teachers, free education, among others, the UNICEF Chief however insisted that an all-inclusive social protection policy would reverse the negative indicators.
“Although governor requested we make the policy available by December, but with the assurances from Budget and Economic Planning Commissioner, we agreed on November as delivery date.
“What UNICEF has done to ensure the November deadline is achieved is to mobilize all resources within and outside UNICEF including hiring a renowned international consultant on social protection supporting national process,” she added.
Deputy Governor, Dr. Onyekachi Ibezim, while declaring the workshop open, said the social protection policy was in line with the 50-year vision plan of Soludo-led administration of improving lives of the poor and vulnerables.
He expressed confidence in the caliber of manpower and implementing partners involved in the process to deliver on the mandate amidst dwindling global economic challenges.
Earlier, Commissioner for Budget and Economic Planning, Chiamaka Nnake said the workshop was targeted at engaging relevant stakeholders to technically review earlier drafted social protection policy ahead of its launch in November.
“The objectives of the workshop are common understanding and clear directive on the State Social Protection Agenda, to engage stakeholders on the need to have social protection policy to serve as a guide for addressing vulnerability challenges as well as develop a road map for adoption of the policy in the state,” she added.
In her welcome address, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Budget and Economic Planning, Stephanie Keri-uzor described as suicidal neglect to social protection by any nation.
She stressed that an assured and surefooted action-plan for viable sustenance of available human capital development were surest bet for social protection.
“Meaningful development will continue to elude any nation that is lacking in concrete and workable social protection program that, safeguards and offers reasonable guarantee to the basic human needs of individuals,” she noted.