The physical and psychological well-being of children in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states remains at risk due to the complex and protracted conflict. With the ongoing armed conflict in north-east Nigeria, children continue to be recruited and used by armed groups; others have been abducted, maimed, raped and killed.
Following the decision by the Northern Governors Forum as part of the state governments’ response to mitigating the risks of the COVID-19 pandemic, 186 Almajiri children (all boys) were relocated to Borno and Yobe states throughout March and April 2020. These relocation movements put the health and protection of children at risk given the ongoing pandemic and highlighted the need to address care and protection for children without parental care. The Almajiri system involves parents sending their children, mostly boys, to distant locations for the purpose of acquiring religious (Koranic) education. While parents believe they are fulfilling their obligation to provide religious and moral education to their children free of charge, Almajiri children are often sent by their teachers (mallams) to beg in the streets and form a significant portion of children without parental care at risk of abuse, exploitation and neglect.
In March 2020, the Child Protection Sub-Sector (CPSS) trained 31 child protection workers (15 women and 16 men) on delivering accountability through participation to enhance their understanding of the conceptual and practical aspects for accountability to affected populations focusing on children. To mainstream child protection into food security and livelihoods programming, the CPSS facilitated training on child protection concepts and principles and various forms of child protection risks. The training demonstrated how child protection issues are linked to food security and livelihoods and outlined measures that food security and livelihoods actors can take to prevent and mitigate protection risks for children.
In March 2020, the CPSS developed the Guidance Note on Child Protection Service Provision and Caring for Children in the Context of the COVID-19 Pandemic, which provides practical guidance to child protection actors and aid workers in other sectors to facilitate safe child protection service provision during the COVID-19 pandemic in north-east Nigeria. The Sub-Sector also compiled examples of adapting child protection service delivery in the COVID-19 context, which were discussed to share experiences, address challenges and identify solutions to support child protection programming.
In April 2020, the CPSS supported the Borno and Yobe state governments to prepare for and provide basic services to the Almajiri children in temporary shelters including food, water, health care and COVID-19 testing, as well as how to document the children for the eventual reunification with their families. The Sub-Sector also supported the state governments to develop guidelines to ensure that state government actors apply minimum basic health and child protection standards before, during and after returning the children to their states of origin and to support safe family reunification.
As part of its localization initiatives, $20,000 USD was made available by the Global Child Protection Area of Responsibility for child protection national NGOs (NNGOs) for: the procurement of protective personal equipment (PPE) for child protection workers; to support the development and production of communication materials on child protection; and to support two national NNGOs with individual grants to implement safe child protection services within the response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
While child protection actors adapted modalities to ensure the safe provision of prioritized child protection services including remote case management and psychosocial support services throughout COVID-19, this has been limited to locations where telecommunication is available. Stigmas associated with COVID-19 infections have complicated the provision of alternative care for children whose parents have tested for COVID-19. On the other hand, the lack of belief in the existence of COVID-19 has also proven to be a challenge for providing prioritized child protection services activities while adhering to physical distancing and other control measures.