The Paediatrics Associated of Nigeria has decried the rising cases of child abuse in the country and called on more states to domesticate the child rights Act.
The body, however, said in states where the Act was already domesticated, appropriate machinery should be put in place for it to be fully implemented.
This was contained in a nine-point communique issued at the end of the 52nd/53rd Scientific Conference and Annual General Meeting of the Paediatric Association of Nigeria in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State.
The communique signed by PAN President, Dr Olufemi Ogunrinde and Secretary, Dr Maria Garba, was made available to our correspondent in Port Harcourt on Sunday.
The body observed that child abuse, also known as ‘child maltreatment’, was a global phenomenon, stating “In Nigeria, six out of 10 children experience physical, emotional, or sexual abuse before the age of 18 years.
“Child Abuse has serious consequences in the immediate and long term for the child, family, and the nation and interacts to undermine national security by fuelling banditry, kidnapping and religious intolerance.”
According to the communique, the conference themed ‘Child Abuse: An Escalating Menace in Nigeria’, had four subthemes, namely, Technological and Molecular Advances in Child Healthcare, Adolescent Depression and Suicide, Genetics in Child Health and Pneumonia in the wake of COVID-19.
The communique called on all stakeholders, from the family to the community, NGOs, professional bodies including PAN and the government to play more decisive roles in protecting children from child abuse and punishing offenders.
It further read, “Government should strengthen the reporting system for cases of child abuse.
“The Child Rights Act should be domesticated in states of the Federation where it is yet to be domesticated; in states where the Act has been domesticated, it should be fully implemented.
“The conference recommends that the reporting of child abuse should be mandatory by law, and the process protected to secure the identities of the victim and the reporter and ensure the successful prosecution of the assailant.
“Adolescent-focused and adolescent-friendly services should be implemented nationwide; in addition, all children should be provided with a safe environment when using the internet and social media.
“A nationwide study should be designed and conducted to better understand the burden of child abuse in Nigeria.
“The Government at all levels should prioritise the provision of low-cost, effective, and durable technologies for the care of a small and sick newborn; no effort should be spared in recruiting, training, and retaining a skilled workforce for newborn care.”
The body said over 160 papers were presented on various aspects of Paediatrics and Child Health.