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Betta Edu becomes ECOWAS Inter-ministerial committee chair

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The Minister of Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation, Dr. Betta Edu, has been appointed as the Chairman of the ECOWAS Inter-ministerial Committee on Social Protection in the West African sub-region. 

The confirmation of her role came following the approval by ECOWAS Heads of State and Government and Nigeria’s President, Bola Ahmed Tinubu.

Addressing the significance of her new position, Dr. Edu emphasized the need for active involvement from the private sector and development partners in the regional social protection framework. She stressed that timely action is crucial.

During the closing session of the hybrid inter-ministerial meeting in Banjul, Gambia, Dr. Edu underscored the importance of member countries adopting and fully implementing the ECOWAS regional social protection framework. 

She highlighted that this step is pivotal in addressing humanitarian and poverty challenges in West Africa.

Dr. Edu noted that social protection is a fundamental human right, not a privilege. She pointed out that the COVID-19 pandemic revealed significant gaps in social protection, particularly in West Africa, where coverage is notably low.

Social Protection is a fundamental human right and should not be regarded as a privilege. It is a social and economic necessity that has proven to be a stabilizer in times of crises and shock, and it is meant to be provided throughout  life circle,” she said

Drawing attention to the statistics, she disclosed that the ECOWAS region’s social protection coverage is the lowest on the continent, with only about 17% of the population receiving some form of benefits. 

Expenditure on social protection is also strikingly low, with just 1% of member states’ GDP allocated to such benefits.

Despite these challenges, Dr. Edu acknowledged Nigeria’s efforts in addressing social protection issues, citing the implementation of one of Africa’s largest social protection interventions covering 15 million households and 61 million individuals through conditional cash transfers.

Nigeria has a National Policy on Social Protection developed and other ancillary policies that will facilitate its operationalization, like the Cash and Voucher Assistance policy in Humanitarian context have equally been developed to guide actors in providing cash transfer assistance to the persons of concern in humanitarian setting.

“Also in terms of structures, we have Several Agencies and parastatals dedicated to providing various social protection assistance to different categories of the population of Nigeria to lift millions out of poverty through different Social Investment and intervention programs under the watch of the ministry of humanitarian Affairs and poverty alleviation.

“All interventions including humanitarian interventions are now redesigned through the lenses of the Humanitarian- Development-Peace nexus to ensure sustainable response.

“Most importantly, a  Humanitarian and Poverty Alleviation Trust Fund has equally been approved by the Federal Executive Council to ensure the mobilization of resources for social protection interventions,” she said.

Dr. Edu also called for immediate action, emphasizing that the Social Protection Framework for West Africa aims to provide comprehensive guidelines to ECOWAS and member states for designing and delivering social protection interventions. 

The closing ceremony, attended by ministers from eleven countries and regional heads of organizations such as UNICEF, IFAO, and WFP, received commendation from the Vice President of The Gambia, Muhammad Jallow. 

 

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