800,000 Children Have Been Displaced by Boko Haram Violence; Many Have Been Captured and Subjected to Forced Conversion, Marriage, Rape, and Labor

In this file photo taken on Feb. 25, 2015, a family of refugees that fled their homes due to violence from the Islamic extremist group Boko Haram sit inside a refugee camp in Minawao, Cameroon.
In this file photo taken on Feb. 25, 2015, a family of refugees that fled their homes due to violence from the Islamic extremist group Boko Haram sit inside a refugee camp in Minawao, Cameroon.

Around 800,000 children have been driven from their homes as a result of fighting between Nigerian forces and Boko Haram, according to a report released today by UNICEF. Its publication comes amid new reports of the brutality of the Islamist militants’ rule in areas under their control.

The UNICEF report estimates that more than 1.5 million people have been displaced by the fight with Boko Haram, including 1.2 million in Nigeria and another 200,000 in neighboring Cameroon, Chad, and Niger. UNICEF says that many of those are “staying with host communities with little access to humanitarian support, putting additional strains on already stretched health, education and social services.”

Children in particular have been victimized by Boko Haram: UNICEF estimates that the number of displaced children has doubled over the past year to 800,000.

Children as young as four years old are being used within the ranks of Boko Haram – as cooks, porters and look-outs. According to accounts by escapees, young women and girls who have been abducted have been subjected to forced marriage, forcible religious conversion, physical and psychological abuse, forced labour and rape. In addition, children have reportedly been recruited by vigilante groups fighting against Boko Haram in northeast Nigeria.

As people flee their homes, a large and growing number of children have been separated from their parents. An assessment conducted in 33 locations in Borno and Yobe States in Nigeria found nearly 2,400 separated and unaccompanied children among a population of nearly 150,000 displaced persons.

The report’s publication comes a day before the anniversary of the kidnapping by Boko Haram of more than 200 girls from the town of Chibok, an incident which drew international attention and outrage (#Bringbackourgirls” was briefly a social media sensation). UNICEF’s regional director for West and Central Africa, Manuel Fontaine, said in a statement that the Chibok abduction “is only one of endless tragedies being replicated on an epic scale across Nigeria and the region.”

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SOURCE: Arthur Bright
Christian Science Monitor

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