Olayinka Omigbodun, director, Centre for Child and Adolescent Mental Health, University of Ibadan (UI), says poverty adversely affects the emotional development of children, to whom it poses a great threat.
Omigbodun, who is also the head of psychiatry department at the university, made the statement in an interview with NAN.
“It affects their education, health, nutrition and security. It negatively affects the emotional and spiritual development of children through the environment it creates,” she said.
June 16 is set aside to celebrate the African child in remembrance of the children killed in Soweto, South Africa in 1976.
The 2017 celebration of the event was themed: “The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development for Children in Africa: accelerating Protection, Empowerment and Equal Opportunity”.
According to Omigbodun, the 17 SDGs have over 169 targets and the child and adolescent mental health are rich within the agenda.
“Goal 1 involves ending poverty in all forms everywhere. According to SDGs document, poverty is more than lack of income and resources.
“It includes lack of basic services like education, hunger, social discrimination and exclusion and lack of participation in decision making.
“It is impossible to target the eradication of poverty without impacting child and adolescent mental health.
“The activities for poverty eradication, such policies of gender equality, legal protection, economic opportunities, improved schooling and housing, all promote the activities of child and adolescent mental health.
“Goal 2, which targets eradication of hunger, achieving food security and improved nutrition, and promote agriculture, has specific targets to enable infants access safe, nutritious and sufficient food for all year round.
“This helps to reduce the incidence of intellectual disability and enhance cognitive performance of infants, children and adolescents.
“We cannot separate poverty from hunger. The rate of depression is higher in adolescents who are hungry in Africa and Sub-Saharan region.
“If a child is hungry he/she is at risk of reduction in the incidence of intellectual ability and low cognitive performance.
“Goal 3, which aims at ensuring healthy lives and promoting the well-being for all ages, has strong targets for mental health and well-being, as well as substance abuse.
“The SDGs document expands on this goal, projecting that by 2030, there should be a one-third reduction in premature mortality from communicable diseases through prevention and treatment and promotion of mental well-being of the child.
“It strengthens the prevention of and treatment of substance abuse including narcotic drug abuse and harmful use of alcohol.”
Omigbodun said the goals and targets of the SDGs overlap greatly with the United Nations Convention Treaty; that is a formally concluded and a ratified agreement between states.
The child expert charged all stakeholders to rise up to the occasion by ensuring that Nigerian children and adolescent have good mental health.
This, she said, is possible if the family, school, and government play the required roles in the development of mental health of the child.