By Unue Emeka,
Delta State Governor, Dr Ifeanyi Okowa has described poverty as the greatest challenge militating against full implementation of United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) programmes in Nigeria.
The Governor Okowa stated this when UNICEF representative in Nigeria, Mr Mohammed Fall paid him a courtesy visit in Asaba, explained that the recession that rocked the country, also, contributed to the level of poverty in the country.
According to him, “when a child is not well fed, that child is susceptible to illness, we also need to carry out more enlightenment campaigns on family planning because, until we control the population, we won’t be able to achieve what we intend in this country,” the Governor said, asserting, “we need to have a desirable level of birth control to achieve set goals.”
He disclosed that his administration has achieved a lot in the area of reduction of child mortality, assuring that the introduction of the compulsory health insurance scheme will further, boost the health of Deltans.
According to the Governor, while government pays premium for the insurance of the vulnerable in the society, “we believe that as we move on, we will be able to further reduce the level of mortality, our people have more access to water, we have improved security in the state though, we still have some challenges in the area of basic and secondary education at the riverine areas.”
“The Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education is having a budget of N20 Billion which is about the biggest among the Ministries, it is also, very important to educate parents on the need to send their children to school,” the Governor stated, observing that lack of job opportunities after graduation is not also, encouraging.
He emphasised that due to his administration’s commitment to ensure that youths are positively engaged, different skills cum empowerment programmes for graduates and non-graduates which have to a large extent, reduced the number of jobless youths in the state have been introduced.
The Governor at the courtesy call also said there is an aggressive campaign on child nutrition and upbringing going on in the state, reiterating, “I believe we can do more in the area of partnership, partnering with UNICEF is very important and as a state, we will do the best that we can to partner with you (UNICEF) to achieve set goals.”
Mr Fall in an address said he was in the state to “introduce the priority areas of 5-year new country programme to focus on partnering with the Delta State government as the programme priorities are in line with Governor Okowa’s 5-point SMART agenda.”
He lauded Governor Okowa’s achievements in reducing “under five mortality which declined from 113/1000 in 2011 to 95/1000 in 2016, stunting reduced from 22 per cent in 2011 to 16.3 per cent in 2016 and access to safe water improved from 75.1 per cent in 2011 to 79.4 per cent in 2016.”
Mr Fall called for increase enrolment of girls in school, ensuring routine immunization of all children by age one year with the required antigens including polio, promoting feeding, hygiene and sanitation practices to reduce high level of stunting, prevent and treat severe acute malnutrition and also, address attitudes, practices and believes that perpetuate gender discrimination to reduce child marriage and violence.
Dame Edith Okowa who is UNICEF Ambassador on Nutrition, Commissioners, among others witnessed the event.