African child and devastating effect of poverty

Prof. Olayinka Omigbodun, Director, Centre for Child and Adolescent Mental Health, University of Ibadan (UI), says poverty is most devastating effect on children, to whom it poses a great threat.

“It affects their education, health, nutrition and security. It negatively affects the emotional and spiritual development of children through the environment it creates,” he said.

Omigbodun, who is also the Head of Psychiatry, UI, made these disclosures in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Friday in Ibadan, on the sidelines of the 2017 celebration of the Day of the African Child.

NAN reports that the theme of this year’s celebration is: “The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development for Children in Africa: accelerating Protection, Empowerment and Equal Opportunity.”

According to Omigbodun, the 17 SDGs have over 169 targets and the child and adolescent mental health are rich within the agenda.

“Goal 1 involves ending poverty in all forms everywhere. According to SDGs document, poverty is more than lack of income and resources.

“It includes lack of basic services like education, hunger, social discrimination and exclusion and lack of participation in decision making.

“It is impossible to target the eradication of poverty without impacting child and adolescent mental health.

“The activities for poverty eradication, such policies of gender equality, legal protection, economic opportunities, improved schooling and housing, all promote the activities of child and adolescent mental health.

“Goal 2, which targets eradication of hunger, achieving food security and improved nutrition, and promote agriculture, has specific targets to enable infants’ access safe, nutritious and sufficient food for all year round.

“This helps to reduce the incidence of intellectual disability and enhance cognitive performance of infants, children and adolescents.

“We cannot separate poverty from hunger.

“The rate of depression is higher in adolescents who are hungry in Africa and Sub-Saharan region.

“If a child is hungry he/she is at risk of reduction in the incidence of intellectual ability and low cognitive performance.

“Goal 3, which aims at ensuring healthy lives and promoting the well-being for all ages, has strong targets for mental health and well-being, as well as substance abuse.

“The SDGs document expands on this goal, projecting that by 2030, there should be a one-third reduction in premature mortality from communicable diseases through prevention and treatment and promotion of mental well-being of the child.

“It strengthens the prevention of and treatment of substance abuse, including narcotic drug abuse and harmful use of alcohol,” she said.

According to the don, the goals and targets of the SDGs overlap greatly with the United Nations Convention Treaty; that is a formally concluded and a ratified agreement between states.

The child expert charged all stakeholders to rise up to the occasion by ensuring that Nigerian children and adolescent have good mental health.

This, according to her, is possible if the family, school and government play the required roles in the development of mental health of the child.

“Millions of children and adolescents are still caught in a cycle of trauma and tragedy and thousands have lost their lives in the horrendous conditions.

“We remember them all today. Many children and adolescents need to help to make the world a better place.

NAN also reports that the Day of the African Child is commemorated on June 16 annually in memory of the June 16, 1976 Soweto uprising where hundreds of black school children were killed.

The Assembly of Heads of State and Governments of the then Organisation of African Unity (OAU) instituted the Day of the African Child in 1991 in memory of all who lost their lives during the uprising.

Students were gunned down as they marched in protest against the poor quality of education they were receiving.

Apart from the remembrance of the children, the Day of the African child also leads us to soberly reflect on the challenges that African children continue to face.
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