The State Of Children In Africa

African children are the worst hit whenever there is crisis, war, disaster - natural or man-made. Being minors, they are vulnerable to deprivation, hardship, hunger etc. whenever and wherever there is an upheaval. For many decades, African countries have been inflicted by myriads of chaotic situations and internal conflicts as a result of politics, ineffective governance, agitation for autonomy, religious war, boundary disputes, intra and inter-party conflicts, opposition of the people to non-popular government policies etc. Examples of the vulnerability of African children can be cited in Kenya some years back where hundreds of people were killed, several others displaced, and thousands of children massacred by armed mob. In the Darfur Region of western Sudan, millions of people were killed and some displaced, thus causing massive humanitarian and refugee crisis. This war erupted in 1983 when a regional group took up arms demanding autonomy from Khartoum and access to resources. The conflict claimed an estimated two million lives within Sudan and forced many others to become refugees in neighbouring countries, which the Financial Times of London reported as being Africa's longest running civil war from 1983 to 2004. Two other African conflicts, those of the Democratic Republic of Congo and Cote d' Ivoire, also were severe and horrorful. In the case of Democratic Republic Congo, parties involved in the conflict were many, with a faction in Rwanda. Fighting in this region started in 1996 and claimed lives, also in millions, and displaced more millions than those killed, which resulted in very high population of refugees who ran to neighbouring countries like Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. In all the conflicts and wars, aside from the children slain alongside their parents, one is forced to ask, "What is the fate of those children who overnight become orphans? In Nigeria, the Boko Haram insurgents in the North East have rendered many children orphans. These children are now at the mercy of humanitarian agencies, philanthropic organizations, good-spirited individuals, and governments, both local and federal. A particular set of children who suffer from Boko Haram insurgency are female children. In 2014, 276 young girls who were schooling at Government Girls Secondary School, Chibok in Borno State were abducted by the insurgents. And just very recently, on Monday, Februrary19, 2018 the insurgents again abducted 110 school girls from Government Girls Science and Technical College, Dapchi in Yobe State. This is a very soft target for them to strike. Boko Haram is doing all these because they are senselessly against western education, which is a pivot to development universally. Another very disturbing trend is the Fulani herdsmen/farmers' clashes in Benue State which have also killed and maimed many parents/breadwinners as well as destroy the family means of livelihood and survival. Also very recently, the Fulani herdsmen slaughtered 60 people in a fresh attack in Guma Local Government of Benue State. In all these case of clashing and insurgency, it is the children/youths that are the most affected through displacement, deprivation, hunger, diseases and abuses. In the Boko Haram enclave of Borno State, children are forced to walk several kilometres to safety under severe hunger, weakness and sometimes carry loads of necessity. They live with fear of the unknown, while those kidnapped by the insurgents are trained to carry arms or bombs, thus earning them the appellation of kid-soldiers or kid-suicide bombers as the case may be. All these horrific situations have negative psychological effect on the African children. It also affects their human value wider, their mental and clinical health and life aspirations, especially girl-children who are abused sexually and devalued by their abductors. Another scourge confronting children in Africa is the issue of child trafficking which the government of African countries are grappling with, yet the solution to this modern day slavery is far from sight. On daily basis, African children are bundled into vessels and ferried to Gabon. Others are taken across the Mediterranean Sea to Europe and sold as slaves. Those that are not trafficked by sea are forced to cross the desert under very hot weather to Libya and some European nations for slavery. The perpetrators of those heinous crimes accomplish their goals by deceiving the children (their targets) that plum job opportunities await them in the foreign lands. To escape unemployment and the biting conditions of survival in their fatherland, they easily accept these affairs, only to meet a near death situation in their new residents which the unlucky ones actually die. At times, these children traffickers secure their goods or articles of sales through the consent of their parents who are either splashed with fat sums of money and foreign gift items or a promise that their children are travelling to safe-havens and prosperity, and therefore should not be restricted. They sometimes hypnotize these children, drug and kidnap them for their illicit trade. When they reach their destinations or slave markets, words cannot describe the agonies they pass through daily because they were blindfolded and taken to their new abode with no information of their country's embassies and have no contact with relevant government agencies to seek for help and information. In as much as African children are leaders of tomorrow, governments of their countries should pay attention to them, value them, and put every machinery in place for a secure and peaceful state. It is based on "son is father to a man, that the United Nations General Assembly on August 12, 1999 declared the day as the International Youth Day since children/youths are necessary factors in development. Thus, August 12 has since been celebrated yearly as International Youth Day. In other words, when we talk of succession, it is our children who will succeed us. If we do not pay attention to them in the real sense of it by protecting and developing them, we would end up being succeeded by corrupt successors. A corrupt leader will in turn propagate corrupt followers and this will result in a corrupt generation of African children. To stem corruption and underdevelopment in Africa, African leaders should holistically pay attention to the cancerous issues affecting her children, some of which are drug abuse, hunger and poverty, HIV/AIDS, other sexually transmitted diseases (STD), low education and unemployment. To achieve success in steming the above, they should as much as possible govern with those principles and policies that will discourage crisis, conflict and insecurity arising from unemployment and hardship. In recent times, there has been a rise in the use of hard drugs by African children because African states are used as dumping grounds of those drugs, and her leaders could not enforce marketing and distribution restrictions against those substances. Extreme hunger, poverty and frustration expose the children of Africa to slavery and hard labour through child trafficking and wars. In terms of health, according to the United Nations, young people in Africa and the world over reach adolescence faster but marry late, while pre-marital sex issues are on the increase, resulting in high incidence of HIV/AIDS and other sexual violence against the girl-child. The spread of HIV is therefore destructive to their reproductive health. They are also cases or raising incidence of juvenile delinquency among African children/youths. This is a threat to security and peace of the society which has led to detentions and imprisonments in order to reduce the crimes committed by our young leaders. Coming back to our dear country Nigeria, our children have indulged in several anti-social activities such as rape, robbery, drug addiction, cyber-crime etc. These pose a lot of concern to our society and high cost of government in terms of control. Be it as it may, we are confident that given the apparatus of government, the situation can be controlled and reversed. Some of the apparatus of government targeted on the youth/children should include job creation, bursaries, micro-credit loans, human capital development, scholarships, free medical facility to the children, and rehabilitation of returnees from children trafficking etc. It is a thing of joy and commendation to observe that the administration of President Muhammadu Buhai and Governor Udom Gabriel Emmanuel have recognized the imperative of youths/children in both national and state development through the children and the youth council. Both governments have the Ministry of Youth and Sports Development as a reorganization of the importance of youths/children. The children and youth council do participate in decision making at both the state and federal levels of government. They are also appointed into offices of responsibilities by both the governor and the president. It is our belief that other African leaders should copy from President Buhari and Gov Udom Emmanuel. For sustainable development in Africa therefore, investment in human capital development should start with the children so that the benefit of the Millennium Development Goals of the United Nations would be achievable.

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