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As the world mark International World Children’s Day, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has called on global leaders to commit to doing more to fulfil children’s rights.

The call came with a global request asking individual to sign a global online petition asking for ‘children to be put back on the agenda.’

In a statement, UNICEF’s Representative in Nigeria, Mohamed Fall said “we want to build a world where every child is in school, safe from harm and can fulfil their potential and nowhere is this more true than in Nigeria.

“A lot has been achieved but there is still much to do to ensure that Nigerian children benefit from advances in child rights. At the moment, too many children are being left behind, and we need to reach them.”

According to him, Nigeria has the world’s highest number of out-of-school children, and one of its highest rates of maternal, child and infant mortality, adding that more than four million children are unimmunized and tens of millions of Nigerians still do not have access to clean water and proper sanitation, putting children’s health at risk.

Fall said diseases like pneumonia, diarrhea, and malaria combined with underlying malnutrition are responsible for most of the deaths among infants and children in Nigeria adding that Nigeria’s burden of stunted growth among children is the second highest in the world, with 16.5 million affected, and high burden of severe acute malnutrition, with an estimated 2.6 million children severely acutely malnourished.

He lamented that Nigerian children experience a wide range of abuses and harmful practices, noting that an estimated 3 in 5 children have suffered one or more forms of violence before reaching 18, with over 70 per cent experiencing multiple incidents of violence.

“No matter where a child is born whether into wealth or poverty, they and their parents have the same hopes and dreams for their future. And we owe it to all children to give them a fair chance to survive and fulfil those dreams.

“Nigerian children have a huge role to play in the country’s national development. It is the generation of children growing up today who will take their place as Nigeria’s leaders tomorrow – and who will be able to take further to really accelerate the progress we make now.

“In partnership with the Nigerian Government, we are determined to ensure that stronger investment will yield progress for all children in education, health; including ensuring routine immunization for all, nutrition and child protection.

“This World Children’s Day, we must recommit to children knowing that for Nigeria to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, we must invest in long-lasting institutional and community-based systems and policies for children’s survival, growth and development,” Fall said.

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