UNICEF says it is prepared to provide necessary framework for policy and technical assistance to address poverty and modernize Abia State’s social protection system.
The intervention is in collaboration with the European Union and the International Labour Organization, ILO.
UNICEF which expressed concern over the growing poverty rate in the country, stressed the need for home-grown solution in addressing the menace.
Social Policy Specialist, UNICEF, Nigeria, Abuja, Mr Segun Tekun, stated this when a delegation from UNICEF, EU and ILO met with Governor Alex Otti in Abia.
UNICEF pledged support for the State Government by putting in place policies and legislative framework that would help address poverty and improve social protection.
“This intervention will focus mainly on technical support. One of the things we want to ensure is that policy designed by state to address the issue of poverty and vulnerability takes into account, the needs of the people.”
The UNICEF representative stressed the need for special attention to the needs of children in the state.
UNICEF further pledged to assist in capacity building of people in the state with a view to reducing the number of people in the social register.
“We will build capacity that will help support policy work. We will design home-grown solutions that will address poverty and vulnerability in the state”.
“Our interest is that the number in the social register should actually reduce. When we speak to Governments, our interest has been economic reforms, getting the economy to work with attention to the social sector.”
UNICEF, however, commended Gov Otti for his efforts towards improving the living standard of the people through rebuilding the necessary infrastructure and the health sector.
“We have seen that a lot has been done within the social sector since you came on board. You have built and commissioned some critical infrastructure including hospitals”.
UNICEF also emphasized the need for adequate attention to the social sector, while advising that the social register be used for planning and for pension scheme.
UNICEF further urged the State to get people in the informal sector onboard its pension scheme.
“We have large informal sector especially in Aba, and one of the ways to move those people from the informal sector is through pension. Pension is necessary to ensure that people have income security at their old age.”
Speaking also, Programme Manager for Social Protection, European Union, Miss Chioma Osuji, told the Governor that they were in Abia to partner the state in strengthening its social protection system by coming up with a reliable social register that would serve as a guide in providing the necessary support to addressing the multidimensional poverty rate in the state.
She regretted that many poor Nigerians were yet to be captured on the social register to determine the actual number in need of their services, adding that the whole process will now be digitised to tackle the multidimensional poverty rate in Nigeria.
While noting that Abia was selected among four states to enjoy the partnership of EU and her partner agencies, she stated that the team would help the state get a social protection policy with all the legislative framework.
Adding her voice, the Senior Programme Officer, International Labor Organization (ILO), Mrs. Chinyere Emeka-Anuma noted that their Agencies are working with the EU to strengthen intervention projects in their chosen locations.
She pointed out that the team would meet with stakeholders in various sectors of the state to enable them know their areas of interest and what the team can bring to the table.
Responding, Gov Alex Otti thanked the delegation for the visit especially for including Abia as one of the four states for the intervention.
The Governor who acknowledged the role of reliable data in planning, pledged support for the team as it carries out its assignment in the state.
“Please go to the people and help us generate reliable data that we can also use for other purposes”, Otti said.
He thanked UNICEF and its partners for their multi-dimensional approach towards poverty reduction in the state.
The Governor who re-stated his commitment towards poverty reduction in the state, solicited the support of other donor agencies to complement Government’s efforts.
“We want to genuinely take people out of poverty. We may not be able to totally eliminate poverty completely but we want to alleviate it by creating the enabling environment to pull people out of poverty through gainful employment.”
The Governor commended the synergy among UNICEF, EU and other partners, and urged them to sustain it for the good of the people.
Lamenting the mess in the pension system of the state, Otti solicited the support of the delegation in evolving a workable pension scheme for the state.
“Pension scheme in the state was a complete mess before we came on board, and we have been trying to fix it. We are trying to migrate to contributory pension scheme. So, we need your assistance”.
Speaking earlier, Commissioner for Women Affairs and Poverty Alleviation, said it was discovered that the state’s social register was no longer current and needed to be updated.
She expressed the commitment of the state towards improving the livelihood of the citizenry especially women and children who are the most vulnerable.
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