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UN Women seeks nation’s commitment on gender equality



As report lists lack of data, poor funding as gaps for women’s empowerment

The UN Women recently called the world community to hold accountable for gender equality commitments those in power across different countries of the world.

To this end, the international organisation, has therefore called for the institution of a vibrant civil society with space to express itself, as part of measures to achieve hold world leaders accountable over gender equality issues.

UN Women made these calls during the launch on February 14  of its flagship report, “Turning promises into action: Gender equality in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”.

The report demonstrates through concrete evidence and data the pervasive nature of discrimination against all women and girls everywhere, and puts forth actionable recommendations on how to fulfill the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Two and a half years after the adoption of the 2030 Agenda, this first-of-its-kind report examines through a gender lens the progress and challenges in the implementation of all 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The Agenda’s focus on peace, equality and sustainability provides a powerful counter-narrative to the current rise of conflict, exclusion and environmental degradation.

Yet, women are up against an unprecedented set of challenges in all these areas, and urgent action is needed to address them.

For instance, new analysis from the report shows that:

In 89 countries with available data, women and girls account for 330 million of the poor. This translates to four more women living on less than USD 1.90 a day for every 100 men.

The gender gap is particularly wide during the reproductive years.

More than 50 per cent of urban women and girls in developing countries live in conditions where they lack at least one of the following – access to clean water, improved sanitation facilities, durable housing, and sufficient living area.

Eliminating all forms of violence against women and girls is a pre-condition for peaceful societies, yet one in five women under the age of 50 experienced physical and/or sexual violence by an intimate partner in the past 12 months.

Between 2010 and 2015, the world lost 3.3 million hectares of forest areas. Poor rural women depend on common pool resources and are especially affected by their depletion.

Presenting the report, UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, said: “As a world, we committed through the SDGs to leave no one behind. This report’s new data and analysis underlines that, unless progress on gender equality is significantly accelerated, the global community will not be able to keep its promise. This is an urgent signal for action, and the report recommends the directions to follow.”

The report highlights how, in the lives of women and girls, different dimensions of well-being and deprivation are deeply intertwined: a girl who is born into a poor household and forced into early marriage, for example, is more likely to drop out of school, give birth at an early age, suffer complications during childbirth, and experience violence—all SDG targets—than a girl from a higher-income household who marries at a later age.

The report also looks beyond national averages to uncover the yawning gaps between women and girls who, even within the same country, are living worlds apart because of their income status, race/ethnicity, or where they live.

In the United States (US), poverty rates among black, native American, and Alaskan native women more than double those of white and Asian women, with disparities in education also staggering.

Thirty-eight per cent of Hispanic women in the poorest quintile did not complete high school, compared to a national average of 10 per cent. Other case studies and data sets from the report take an in-depth look at the situation in Colombia, Nigeria, Pakistan, South Africa, and Uruguay.

The report also provides wide-ranging recommendations for change, highlighting four key areas of action:

Integrated policies that can leverage synergies and help achieve several goals at the same time. Achieving gender equality is not only an important goal in and of itself, but also a catalyst for achieving the 2030 Agenda and a sustainable future for all.

 For instance, the report shows that reducing the burden of unpaid care work for women by providing free and universal child care would allow them to access employment opportunities, create decent jobs in the social services sector, and improve children’s health and nutritional outcomes. And, as simulations for South Africa and Uruguay show, the investment would at least in part pay for itself by generating new jobs and additional tax revenue.

Currently, we cannot actually assess what is happening to women and girls across all 17 SDGs. Six of them have no indicators with explicit mentions of women and girls, and the lack of timely and regular gender data hampers adequate monitoring.

The financing gap to achieve a sustainable world can in fact be closed, by addressing the unrecorded capital flight, including illicit financial flows that developing countries face; by reversing the public expenditure cuts that erode safety nets and essential services in both developed and developing countries; and by using all strategies available for raising domestic revenue

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Water shortage, death trap for Nigerians



Access to potable water has been a matter of concern in the country, as over 90 per cent of water consumed by Nigerians is not suitable for drinking. With the challenges of poor sanitation inclusive, millions of Nigerians are at risk of contracting diseases such as diarrhoea and cholera, if facilities are not maintained to improve access to potable water. REGINA OTOKPA reports


“When my children complained of dirt found in water fetched directly from the tap, I never took them serious, but since the day a pipe was opened in my presence and I saw the amount of spirogyra in it, I stopped my family from drinking water directly from the tap in the house or elsewhere.”


These are the comments of Mr. Vumsokot Shibayan, a businessman who further said, “Tap water is supposed to be safe and healthy because of the amount of money spent on water treatment in the country, but because of the materials which the pipes are made from, the water, before getting to their destination becomes contaminated.”


Water they say is the most critical element of life. However, one of the huge problems facing Nigerians living in both urban, semi-urban and rural areas, is access not just to water, but potable water that is free of all forms of contaminant.


Due to the non-availability of water, millions of children are deprived of an improved wellbeing, access to education and worst of all, good sanitation. However, in places where water is accessible, there is concurrent issue of clean and operational water facilities and sources, to help generate clean water for the citizenry.


Some of these water sources include household connections, public standpipes, boreholes, wells, springs and rainwater collections. Rapid population growth has not been accompanied with increase of water services like water supply, sewerage and sanitation. Presently, it is estimated that only 10 per cent of Nigerians have access to potable water.


This is due to poor maintenance and unreliable supplies. Based on the 2017 Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey 5 (MICS5), conducted by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) in conjunction with United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and other development partners, it was revealed that 50 per cent of water facilities in Nigeria are not functional.


This is a major contributing factor to the overwhelming majority of 90.8 per cent of households in Nigeria, who drink water that is contaminated by faeces, poor personal hygiene, and other impure substances such as E.Coli. E. coli (Escherichia coli), is a type of bacteria that normally lives in your intestines. It’s also found in the gut of some animals. Most types of E. coli are harmless and even help keep your digestive tract healthy. But some strains can cause diarrhoea if you eat contaminated food or drink contaminated water.


Concerned with the global crisis caused by insufficient water supply to satisfy basic needs, the United Nations (UN) in 1977, organised the United Nations Water Conference in 1977, The International Drinking Water Supply and Sanitation Decade between 1988 to 1990, The International Conference on Water and the Environment in 1992 and the Earth Summit also in 1992, to fashion out strategies that would enable citizens in developing countries have access to safe drinking water.


The UN had suggested in the World Water Assessment Programme, that each person needs 20 to 50 liters of water a day to ensure their basic needs for cooking, drinking and cleaning.


The relevance of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) to the achievement of all the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) can thus not be brushed under the carpet.


According to UNICEF Chief WASH, Mr. Jurji Zaid, suitable water, improved sanitation and hygiene, are important elements essential for the survival and development of every child. He however lamented that 64 perncent resulting in one-third of the total population of Nigeria do not have access to suitable water free of contamination.


In other words, about 160 million Nigerians constituting two-third of the entire population are at risk of contracting one form of water borne disease or the other. This is unacceptable, especially when 88 per cent of waterborne diseases such as diarrhoea, the fastest killer of children, are as a result of poor access to portable water.



Zaid who noted that about 50 per cent of water facilities in the country were presently not functioning due to poor maintenance of water sources and infrastructures, stated that no more than two to 2.5 per cent of households in Nigeria have modern water facilities. The implication of this is an increased intake of contaminated water derived from several factors including exposure to sewage, open defecation at vicinity of water source, dirty hands, dirty water and containers.


“Over 88 per cent cases of diarrhoea in children, the fastest killer of children under the age of five in Nigeria, is caused by diarrhoea and other diseases. Having access to improve WASH facilities is a human right, we must ensure there is access to clean water and a safe environment for children by 2030.


“The SDGs stipulate that every country should make sure its people have access to WASH because it has a big impact on health, economic productivity of human beings and increases the level of school enrollment especially among girls.”


The specialist who stressed on increased budgetary allocation to the WASH sector in the tune of $8 billion annually from now till 2030 to achieve the SDG 6 on water and sanitation, however warned that most importantly, there was need for consistent maintenance by government and especially the private sector and communities to sustain the life span and efficiency of water facilities to produce potable water.


In a society where water facilities work for 24 hours and are repaired within 24 hours of break down, where people feel responsible enough to make an impact by contributing a specific amount of money to properly maintain the facilities, and where the private sector is allowed to thrive, there would be no case of water contamination because the water system cannot run on its own, it needs to be taken care of.


This is made manifest in an agrarian Honedaruk community in Ganawuri, Riyom Local Government Area of Plateau State, where the provision of WASH services by the European Union (EU) and UNICEF in the community, has reduced infestation of water borne diseases amongst children and increased the number of students enrollment into school as well as increased economic productivity of farmers.


According to the Attaraten of Ganawuri, Chief Yakubu Chaimang.


“This water facility has been of immense help to us. Before now it was difficult we had to rely on the rivers and some people had to abandon their farmlands and travel long distances to enable them access water. Before, when we  fetch water we don’t know what contaminates it. They insist we open joint account where we deposit small amount of money and we did by contributing some amounts and that is what we are going to use to maintain this facilities.”


Worried over Nigeria’s position on the Sustainable Develppment Goals (SDGs) as 2030 fast approaches, National Coordinator, Society for Water and Sanitation (NEWSAN), Mr. Attah Benson is of the view that state governments were sabotaging the efforts of the Federal Government and development partners in ensuring potable water and improved sanitation for all, by reneging on its responsibilities to providing its counterpart funds, and by refusing to allow the local governments sector function in its capacity.


“It is the states that has the responsibilities and they are also supposed to ensure that the local governments are functional because the local governments are supposed to provide services at the grassroots as they know where services are required but we all know that this sector in this country are nonexistent because the state governors do not want the local government to exist or function.



“If you look at all the water and sanitation services being provided across the states, no one is being provided by state governments, it is being provided by one development partner supported by another development partner.



The state governments must take responsibility and also consider the lives and wellbeing of their people before doing anything.” Corroborating Zaid’s point, Benson maintained that the private sector has a huge role to play in ensuring an efficient maintenance and sustainability of the nation’s water system.


However, he stressed on the need for state governments to create an enabling environment and an effective policy to serve as a deterrent to possible exploitation and extortion of the local communities.


“There should be a law and effective policy that will enable the private sector work effectively and also ensure they generate some income, but the laws should also be monitored to ensure that the citizens, urban or rural communities are not exploited or over exploited. It should be a win-win situation for the government, the citizen and the private sector.


“At the moment we are going through economic and poverty challenges; so these laws should be urban- based because without these laws no private sector will want to bring its money except if they want to do corporate social responsibility. But if it is coming for business, there must be an enabling law that will guide the process.”

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Ezeaka: Nutrition promotion, panacea for maternal, child survival



Prof. Chinyere Ezeaka, a consultant paediatrician, is the head of the Neonatology Unit at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) and the College of Medicine University of Lagos (CMUL). In this interview with APPOLONIA ADEYEMI, Ezeaka, who is also the National President of the Nigerian Society of Neonatal Medicine, discusses the role of education and counseling in driving adequate nutrition for maternal, neonatal and child health


Why is child nutrition education critical?


Nutrition remains the hallmark for maternal newborn and child health because once a child’s nutrition is compromised you see the child developing so much problems and its health not being optimised. We are saying that if everybody embarks on optimal nutrition education and gives education counseling around nutrition, we will not be having a lot of issues around nutrition. Besides, nutrition education and counseling should start with exclusive breastfeeding.


What is the current situation of exclusive breast feeding in the country?


Nigeria has one of the very lowest exclusive breast feeding rates. The global average for exclusive breast feeding is about 35 per cent; Nigeria has 17 per cent and a country like Ghana has gone beyond aiming for 70 per cent.


However, one message that is clear that we are talking about is that many mothers actually add water when they are breast feeding; that reduces the rate. Exclusive breast feeding rate means right from within 30 minutes of delivery, a mother should put her child to the breast and give nothing else, not even a drop of water till six months.


Thereafter, at six months that mother is meant to continue with breast feeding and add complementary feeds. The child will continue breast feeding till two years and beyond but many of our mothers are not doing that.


What are the constituents of breast  milk that makes it special for kids?


Breast milk is life; it’s the first immunisation of the child. It has all the nutrients that the child needs. It prevents infection in the child; it prevents infection in the mother and increases bonding between a mother and the baby. Hence, if these mothers put babies to the breast early and exclusively breastfeed them, within 24 to 48 hours they would establish breast feeding.


So, the mother would not have any reason to look for any alternative and of course, the mother would be well nourished and take a lot of fluid.


A mother should aim for at least three to four litres of water a day if she is breast feeding. She has to be in a psychologically conducive environment to do that.


So, breast feeding is key to child survival. Beyond that, we are also looking at complementary feeds. Why is nutrition counseling necessary? Physicians that are armed with a lot of information around feeding shouldn’t keep the information to themselves.


They should go ahead to talk to mothers. It’s about going the extra mile. It may not be easy for physicians to do this counseling in a clinic environment where they are dealing with children that are ill – presenting with diarrhoea and vomiting.


For all you know, if you don’t sort out the malnutrition, which is the nutrition aspect of that child, those health problems will not go away. If you didn’t take time to find out from the mother: “How is she feeding that child? What does the child eat when the mother goes to work?”


We are asking physicians to take more time to listen and ask about nutrition because we are talking about a ‘a healthy nation is a wealthy nation and we are looking at nutrition as the benchmark, the hallmark and the pivot of maternal newborn and child health.


What is nutrition education and counseling?


Nutrition education is something we should introduce as early as possible at all platforms, both at the platform of the physician, the community and everybody nationally should embrace it as a programme.


We have to talk about prevention and health promotion. We shouldn’t be talking about only malnutrition, which is the curative. It’s not when a child is malnurished that we would be talking about malnutrition. We have to talk about health promotion to prevent malnutrition both at the pre-service and in-service levels and have it as a lecture and then the country nationally should embrace it in the curriculum of every health worker.


Could you explain how inter-generational circle of malnutrition can impact the health of a child in the future?



Again, we should know that nutrition does not start with the child. It starts with the mother. Hence, we talk about inter-generational circle of malnutrition. For instance, if you have a girl child who you did not feed well; she grows into an adolescent who is malnourished; she is anaemic, short and stunted. And then when she gets pregnant, because of all the problemsbeing anaemic and not eating well, she will deliver a child who is low birth weight.


Hence, we have a vicious circle of children who are malnourished. Similarly, as we are talking about macro-nutrient, we are also looking at micronutrient, meaning that if these children don’t have the micronutrient, especially iron, zinc and all those other minerals, their brain will not develop well. As part of the impact, you also see children who cannot perform well in schools. With iron deficiency, you have dull kids, which will affect their intellect. ‘


Hence, both macro-nutrient and micronutrient are all very critical. And then we should go on to advertise it and have a lot of media enlightenment about it, involve all health workers as a team, nurses, doctors and the nutritionists, etc. because it is a national programme.

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30% measles survivors suffer blindness, hearing loss



…as Lions Clubs, others raise $60m to eradicate disease


Going by the severe health consequences measles survivors suffer including pneumonia, hearing loss, brain damage, blindness, encephalitis, among others, the Lions Clubs International District 404B2, Nigeria, has launched a measles eradication campaign programme in Lagos as a potent weapon to tackle the disease.


According to the District Governor of 404B2, Nigeria, Asiwaju Samuel Ayobola, the Lagos campaign was part of the global efforts by the Lions Clubs International Foundation (LCIF) in partnership with the GAVI Alliance, the international Vaccine alliance, to eradicate the infectious disease worldwide.


To this end, Ayobola explained that a total of $60 million was raised in 2017 to fight measles all over the world.


According to him, in 2013 the LCIF launched a fund raising effort to rake in $30 million and GAVI Alliance added another $30 million which brought the figure to $60 million by 2017 to fight measles all over the world.


Ayobola added that Lions Clubs International also came up with a measles control initiative called “One Shot, One Life” which was designed to fight the disease headlong.


Measles is one of the leading causes of death among children under five years, even though a safe and cost-effective vaccine is available. Measles vaccination resulted in 84 per cent drop in measles deaths between 2000 and 2016 worldwide.


Currently, Nigeria is ranked as the country  with the highest children unimmunised against measles coming after India. Nigeria is also 192 out of 200 countries in global ranking for measles vaccination coverage, according to UNICEF.

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