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NGOs demand palliatives for millions of almajiri vulnerable to Covid-19

Almajiri pupils in a classroom.

A forum of five nongovernment organisations has called on the government to include almajiri children in its Covid-19 response plan to prevent possible outbreak of the disease among them.

Almajiri comprises the millions of children sent out of homes to seek Islamic education but now living as street children across the country.

Most time, they are left to fend for themselves and they survive through street begging and scavenging.

A 2014 report by UNICEF put their population at 9.5 million of the country’s children between ages three and 14.

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The request comes amidst concern that community transmission of coronavirus has set in and the millions of children roaming streets in cities could be vulnerable.

The forum, Advocates for Dan Almajiri said almajiri children were already exposed to poor health conditions and the probability of contracting the virus, given their situation.

The forum observed that “while it is laudable that government is investing resources to maintain law and order during the pandemic, there is no evidence of special attention to issues affecting children, especially the Almajiris and other street kids, who are more vulnerable in periods of emergency which offer a supportive environment for potential predators.”

“The Almajiri children are far removed from all major sources of information on COVID-19 and the opportunity of parental guidance on the messages and guidelines,” the NGOs forum of five said.

“Implication of this is that they are not able to protect themselves and will not be able to observe any social or physical distancing or access medical services should they contact the virus.”

They called for the expansion of the social register to include the Almajiri children to provide food, non-food items and cash palliatives for them at strategic locations close to them.

Other recommendations include provision of temporary shelter and proper safety and protection of the children on transit in line with child protection and safeguarding principles as contained in the Convention on the Rights of Children, African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child and other conventions that the country has signed and ratified.

The forum includes Plan International Nigeria, Street Child, Riplington Education Initiative (REI), Almajiri Child Rights Initiatives and ActionAid Nigeria.

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