Toba Owojaiye reporting
Abuja , Nigeria
Nigeria’s Minister for Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation, Dr. Betta Edu, recently chaired the ECOWAS Inter-Ministerial Committee on Social Protection. In a virtual address during the closing session in Banjul, Gambia, Dr. Edu emphasized the urgency for member countries to adopt and implement the newly adopted ECOWAS regional social protection framework.
In a statement made available to TruthLive News, the minister highlighted the framework’s significance in addressing pressing humanitarian and poverty challenges across West Africa. Dr. Edu stressed that social protection is not a privilege but a fundamental human right, crucial for stabilizing societies during crises.
The COVID-19 pandemic exposed gaps in West Africa’s social protection, with only about 17% of the population receiving any form of benefits. Dr. Edu acknowledged Nigeria’s efforts, implementing one of Africa’s largest social protection interventions, covering 15 million households and 61 million individuals through conditional cash transfers.
While recognizing strides at the national level, Dr. Edu urged member states to take collective action. She emphasized the need for a comprehensive approach and cited the approval of a Humanitarian and Poverty Alleviation Trust Fund by the Federal Executive Council.
The Social Protection Framework aims to guide ECOWAS and its member states in designing and delivering interventions. Dr. Edu stressed its importance in fostering regional collaboration to tackle common challenges, such as poverty reduction and food insecurity.
The framework aligns with SDG targets, particularly SDG 1.3, focusing on implementing national social protection systems. Dr. Edu emphasized that the effort is driven by the principle that comprehensive social protection contributes to improving citizens’ quality of life.
At the Closing Ceremony, the Vice President of Gambia, Muhammad Jallow, commended member states’ commitment to social protection. He urged the region to move towards mainstreaming social protection into annual budgets, addressing issues like financing, coverage, climate risk, and informality.
The ceremony, attended by ministers from eleven countries, marked a pivotal moment in the region’s commitment to collaborative efforts for comprehensive and inclusive social protection.
In conclusion, Dr. Betta Edu reiterated that the time for action is now, emphasizing the framework’s role in achieving SDG targets and addressing the diverse challenges faced by West Africa.