23 April 2020 - Nigeria

Save the Children: Covid-19 set to impact hundreds of thousands of children in dangerous mix of poverty, hunger and protection risks

Girl champion Purity
  • Effects of COVID-19 could reverse progress made on child rights in Nigeria
  • COVID-19 will impact most marginalised children from low-income families if actionable measures are not put in place and adequately funded. The poorest and vulnerable households will bear the brunt, destroying the hopes of a generation of children[i].

Save the Children is extremely concerned that the COVID-19 pandemic could turn into a serious child rights crisis in Nigeria, as hundreds of thousands of the most vulnerable children could be exposed to a dangerous mix of extreme poverty, malnutrition and hunger as a result  of the virus. 

The socioeconomic impact of the pandemic will push many poor households to turn to desperate measures just to survive. Children could face increased risk of child labour or sexual exploitation or of child marriage, as families struggle to feed their families.

Save the Children urges the authorities in Nigeria to scale up social protection measures such as provision of cash and food assistance for the most vulnerable children and families, to urgently mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in the country.

Mercy Gichuhi, the Acting Country Director, Save the Children International Nigeria, said:
“As the numbers of COVID-19 cases rise in Nigeria to 782[ii], and the virus is spreading to different States, we are working hard to mitigate the negative impact this will have on the most vulnerable children, especially in fragile communities. Children are seriously affected when parents and caregivers are infected by the virus and taken away for care. We are working closely with the government to support efforts to contain the virus and keep children safe and protected amid the pandemic.”

Ibrahim Maharazu, Speaker, Katsina State Children’s Parliament, said:

“The Corona virus is threatening our right to participation, protection, education and healthy life. I can see a possible increase in child abuse as children from poor households might go to rich people in the community for food. They may be emotionally, physically or sexually exploited in exchange for food and financial support. There are people who take advantage of the poor families and the pandemic. This is very bad for children and it can have a long lasting impact on them. The government should hold such perpetrators accountable.”

Save the Children will work with all stakeholders towards better accessible social protection services to reach the most vulnerable people – including through the scaling up and reform of existing social protection and livelihood programmes. Save the Children is urging the government to provide appropriate care and protection for children, including children who are orphaned or left without proper care because their caregivers are in hospital because of the virus. Through existing social safety net programs, the government should also provide immediate income and livelihood support to vulnerable families, to reduce the risk of people taking desperate measures that would put children, particularly girls, at risk.

“We must act now and rapidly scale up support for children whose families’ income is insecure and live in fragile communities. There is a need for increased protection for children, especially girls, displaced children, and other vulnerable groups. Our collective efforts and sustainable actions in responding to the pandemic should ensure that no child is left behind, vulnerable or unprotected”, explains Mercy Gichuhi.

Maryam Ahmed, Youth Ambassador, Save the Children International Nigeria, said:

“It is important that children and other marginalized groups are not excluded in Covid-19 response activities They should be safe, and also consulted on proper education and protection measures to be in place.”

Purity Oriaifo, 14, Girl Champion, Save the Children International Nigeria, said:
“COVID-19 is a disaster. It has affected our ways of living and disrupted our routines – including school attendance and raising an income. I know children whose parents are petty traders who find it difficult to get proper food these days. They may not be able to afford even one meal per day. These families live from day to day, they don’t have food stocks or savings to depend on. Therefore, the government needs to provide financial assistance or sufficient foodstuffs – ensuring that assistance reaches the people now. This will reduce the risk of exploitation, domestic violence and abuse of children, especially the girls.”

Save the Children welcomes the government’s efforts to carry out several awareness programs to educate the public about the coronavirus and preventive measures. The organization is calling upon all government stakeholders at national and subnational level to ensure that children’s voices are heard, and they are at the center of the COVID-19 preparedness, response, prevention and control plans.

To support Save the Children’s global COVID-19 emergency appeal, click here.


  • With help from donors, Save the Children is procuring Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) and Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) materials which will be donated to the relevant government agencies coordinating the COVID response in the country.
  • In addition, the adaptation of existing Save the Children programmes in response to COVID-19 is ongoing. Save the Children is supporting infection prevention and control measures through awareness raising in communities and the provision of IPC and PPEs.
  • Save the Children believes every child deserves a future. In Nigeria and around the world, we work every day to give children a healthy start in life, the opportunity to learn and protection from harm. When crisis strikes, and children are most vulnerable, we are always among the first to respond and the last to leave. We ensure children’s unique needs are met and their voices are heard. We deliver lasting results for millions of children, including those hardest to reach. We do whatever it takes for children – every day and in times of crisis – transforming their lives and the future we share. Save the Children has been working in Nigeria since 2001, and currently present in 12 States.

We have spokespeople available. For more information or interview arrangements, please contact: 

Jennifer Aghaji, Jennifer.Aghaji@savethechildren.org / +234 (0) 8180096345
Florence Cisse, Florence.Cisse@savethechildren.org / +221 77 359 07 77
During out of office hours: Media@savethechildren.org.uk  +44 7831 650 409


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