Environmentalists have observed that Nigeria is witnessing an increasing impact of natural disasters caused by floods, oil spill and bush burning, among others.
In the last few months, many Nigerians have been displaced from their homes and hectares of land have been destroyed due to the devastated flood situation in some parts of the country.
Concerned citizens note that it is worrisome to see the pains victims of natural disasters go through due to the lack of personal and social workers to cater for them.
They cite the experience of a 40-year old Monica Tarkusu, a mother of triplets who claimed that she almost lost her womb as a result of the absence of social workers at the Abeegena Camp in Markurdi, Benue State.
Tarkusu said that the complication started when she was about to give birth as she did not know she had triplets in her womb.
She said there was nobody to attend to her at the camp during her delivery, adding that she was just at the mercy of some of her neighbours.
She said “after the third baby came out, I discovered that my womb also came out but because there were no social workers and medical attendants at the camp, a neighbour of mine used her hand to push my womb back.
“Currently, I am feeling some pains but don’t know where to go to because I cannot access a healthcare facility at the camp.
“At the camp, we have no social workers or any medical personnel to give us medical attention and these are the immediate people we need before we can think of going to the hospital so that we will not have any complications during delivery.’’
Similarly, Mrs Agatha Okaah, a breastfeeding mother, said that she was living comfortably in her village until the flood incident that brought her family to the camp.
She noted that before coming to the camp, she was visiting healthcare facilities but there had been nothing as such presently, appealing to the government to give the newborns the necessary medical attention.
Okaah, who said she got pregnant before relocating to the camp, could not continue with her ante-natal sessions as a result of non-availability of a healthcare facility.
“I was going for ante-natal before I came to the camp but after I got here I was not able to access healthcare at the camp.
“I don’t have medical treatment after birth and I have not also received any immunisation for my baby,’’ she said.
Experts have, therefore, said that the institutionalisation of social workers can be much effective if a social work bill is given due recognition.
According to them, if the National Assembly can expedite actions in ensuring speedy passage of the Social Work Professionalisation Bill aimed at regulating social work practice and profession in the country, it would be of tremendous benefit for the country.
At a recent media dialogue in Enugu State, stakeholders agreed that the passage of the bill would strengthen the social work profession in Nigeria.
They said the passage would also allow those who study social work-related disciplines to take up the profession rather than a situation where the non-professionals take on the business.
United Nation Children Fund (UNICEF) Chief of Field Officer, Enugu State, Dr Ibrahim Conteh, said that the socio-economic challenges had continued to undermine sustainable development for vulnerable children and their families, hence the need for the passage of Social Work Professionalisation Bill.
Conteh said that social work played critical role in supporting the vulnerable population more effectively.
“Issues of high prevalence of violence against children, conflicts, terrorism, high number of out- of-school children and unemployment rate, among other challenges, calls for the passage of Social Work Professionalisation Bill.
“The bill seeks to establish a regulatory framework to improve the standard of practice for anyone wishing to practice social work as you have in engineering, medical and legal professions, among others,’’ he said.
Also, Mrs Maryam Enyiazu, child right protection specialist, UNICEF, said that social workers of a little above 8,429 in number in Nigeria were inadequate to address the challenges of social work in Nigeria.
Enyiazu explained that 70 per cent Nigerian population were facing one form of vulnerability or the other which this number of social workers cannot address.
She also called for the strengthening of social work curriculum in tertiary institutions to impact on the functionality of social work in Nigeria.
Enyiazu noted that, over the years, UNICEF had engaged in supporting education programmes for curriculum development which would assist in strengthening social workforce in the country.
She also said that the organisation had been supporting the National Board for Technical Education (NBTE) for the running of degree programmes in social work to ameliorate the trend in social welfare services.
She said that there were lots of challenges militating against social welfare, adding that in addressing the gaps, there was need to put in place a good social welfare workforce.
Enyiazu noted that the social welfare workforce, if strengthened, would better protect children and as well achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
“Looking at the SDGs that we have, there is clear indication that we need a robust social welfare workforce to drive the process of reducing poverty, increasing access to education and access to good healthcare system.
“Social workers have a huge role to play in ensuring that the goals are achieved. UNICEF has supported the Federal Government to develop a national plan of action on social welfare work force. So, we need to collectively support it to ensure that social welfare is strengthened enough to deliver these services,’’ she said.
According to her, Nigeria needs strong, regulated and standardised workforce in the field of social welfare to thoroughly tackle social problems and prevent the huge loss to violence against children and the vulnerable.
She observed that since Nigeria had yet to understand the need for social welfare workers in the country, social welfare sector struggles to attract pay and retain qualified workforce.
The UNICEF expert insisted that social welfare workforce was critical to achieving the 17 target areas of SDGs.
“A major way to seek legitimacy and raise status of social work as a profession in Nigeria is through the establishment of regulatory mechanism to ensure licensure, certification and registration,’’ she observed.
Also, Prof. Alamveabee Idyorough of the Department of sociology and social work, Federal University, Lafia, said that social workers were important people in the society as they help solve social problems.
He noted that the existence of social workers in the society would bring about social development both at individual and national levels.
Idyorough said that over the years, curriculum had been provided for schools which offer specialised courses in social work so that specialised knowledge were transmitted from one generation to the other.
“That is why we are appealing that when the president receives a copy of the document, he should make haste in assenting to the Social Work Professionalisation Bill.
“This is because the bill will provide the regulatory body concerned with registering new members into the profession and, by so doing, the workforce will increase and help take care of the need of the vulnerabilities in our society,’’ he said.
Adeyemi is of the News Agency of Nigeria.