They are persons or group of persons who have been forced or obliged to flee or to leave their homes or places of habitual residence, in particular as a result of or in order to avoid the effects of armed conflicts, situations of generalized violence, violations of human rights or natural or human-made disasters, and who have not crossed an internationally recognized State Border .(UN Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement).
ARE THERE INTERNATIONAL AND LOCAL LEGAL FRAMEWORK FOR INTERNALLY DISPLACED CHILDREN?
There are laws both international and local guiding internally displaced children because every child deserves care and protection irrespective of their status.
- United Nations Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement, 1998
The instrument spells out all phases of displacement which include “protection from arbitrary displacement; protection and assistance during displacement and protection while finding a durable solution. The very first principle states that Internally Displaced Persons shall enjoy same equality and rights as other persons without any form of discrimination on ground of displacement. The Principle also emphasizes the need for families to reunite as quickly as possible. Principle 11 states and prohibits any form of slavery, such as sale into marriage, sexual exploitation, or forced labour of children. Principle 23 stresses on the need for free education for internally displaced children at primary level which should respect their cultural identity, language and culture.
- Africa Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child 1999
Article 22(3) stresses the need to protect and care for children who are victims of tensions and strife caused by situations of non-international conflict. Article 23 further provides that displaced children who are victims of disasters, non- international armed conflicts, civil strife should receive adequate protection and humanitarian services so as to enjoy the rights as guaranteed in international instruments.
- African Union Convention for the Protection and Assistance of Internally Displaced Persons in Africa (KAMPALA CONVENTION).
This was adopted by the African Union (AU) in October 23, 2009 and provides that States prevent arbitrary displacement by respecting their obligations and rights under international law. It also provides that States are to make humanitarian assistance for internally displaced persons at all phases. This Convention was ratified by Nigeria on April 17, 2012 but yet to be enforced because of the provision of section 12(1) CFRN which requires every treaty to be enacted by the National Assembly before having the force of law in Nigeria.
- The Child Rights Act, 2003
This provides for the welfare and protection of every Nigerian child. Such children in need include children with disability, internally displaced, a refugee, or otherwise in difficult circumstances S. 171(10). S. 171 states that the government must ensure the safeguard and promote the welfare of a child in need and a child in need includes internally displaced children. The government is expected to provide services which will meet the need of these children. S 171(2) allows the government to encourage voluntary organizations to provide for children in need.
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A REFUGEE AND INTERNALLY DISPLACED CHILD?
One striking difference between both is that a refugee is one who crosses an international border. Persons who are displaced from their homes and choose not cross a border or are unable to cross a border are not considered refugees, such are Internally Displaced Persons. Both entails persons facing crisis or armed conflict in their habitual residence and are forced to flee in order to avoid disaster or violations of their rights.
WHAT ARE THE CHALLENGES OF INTERNALLY DISPLACED CHILDREN IN NIGERIA?
- Lack of financial resources to care for these children is a major problem. Funds are needed for the education and wellbeing of displaced children to avoid issue of malnutrition and untimely death as a result of starvation or not taking balanced diet. There is also the issue of diversion of funds in most cases, funds needed for repair, reconstruction, education are syphoned.
- Government agencies, private companies, NGOs sometimes lack coordination and cooperation among themselves to provide for displaced children. With proper coordination and cooperation, funds are properly expended and managed. International humanitarian organizations need the cooperation of local NGOs and government agencies to effectively carry out their roles.
- Humanitarian assistance.
Humanitarian assistance by international organizations is not adequate enough to provide for the welfare of displaced children. Sometimes the needs of children in particular are not taken in cognizance. The issue of security, hostilities of humanitarian workers and political sovereignty of the nation can also be a limiting factor.
- Legal framework for internally displaced children in Nigeria is not adequate. Only the Constitution and the Child Rights Act makes made reference to displaced children but no specific legislation to this regard. Worthy of note is that most states are yet to adopt the Child Rights Act. There is need for specific legislation for internally displaced children and the political will to enforce every provision.
- The risk of abuse both physical and sexual, abduction, poor nutrition, lack of education poor shelter are all issues faced by internally displaced children.
WHAT IS THE WAY FORWARD?
- Government should prioritize the needs of children as they are the most vulnerable and provide adequate funds for their wellbeing. Funds should also be committed to the right hands not persons whose belly is their God.
- Education should be provided for internally displaced children as this plays a good role for their development vocational training inclusive.
- The Legal framework should be expanded and more specific. Government should play its role in enforcing laws for the wellbeing of this children
- Humanitarian access should be strengthened and social workers should be able to relate with displaced children so they can know what they go through. Some face abuse but are dying in silence with no one to open up to.
Every child has a beautiful future irrespective of status, those without families or adequate care are the most vulnerable and we must play our role in adding meaning to their lives.
Success Oghosa Osasogie is a Lagos based Legal Practitioner and a professional volunteer.
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