Lagos - Some 800 000 children have been forced to flee their homes as a result of the conflict between Boko Haram, military forces and civilian self-defence groupsin northeast Nigeria.
This is according to a new report the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has released one year after the abduction of more than 200 schoolgirls in Chibok, Borno State.
The report, titled Missing Childhoods, reveals that the number of children running for their lives within Nigeria, or crossing over the border to Chad, Niger and Cameroon, has more than doubled in just less than a year.
“The abduction of more than 200 girls in Chibok is only one of endless tragedies being replicated on an epic scale across Nigeria and the region,” says Manuel Fontaine, UNICEF Regional Director for West and Central Africa.
“Scores of girls and boys have gone missing in Nigeria – abducted, recruited by armed groups, attacked, used as weapons, or forced to flee violence. They have the right to get their childhoods back”
The figures come as UNICEF draws attention to the devastating impact of the conflict on children across the region using the hashtag #bringbackourchildhood.
Also Read: 800 000 children forced from homes in Boko Haram violence
As part of this drive, UNICEF is using Snapchat – a social platform where messages disappear – to highlight the plight of the hundreds of thousands of children who are missing out on their childhoods as a result of the conflict.
To tell the stories of the children who have fled the violence, UNICEF and leading Snapchat artists will share images based on drawings from children in Nigeria, Chad, Niger and Cameroon. The artwork reflects what children miss from home and the emotional wounds and suffering they have endured, including seeing their parents and siblings killed, tortured or abducted.
Missing Childhoods outlines how the conflict is exerting a heavy toll on children in Nigeria and across the region in an increasing number of ways.
According to UNICEF, children are being used within the ranks of Boko Haram – as combatants, cooks, porters and look-outs. Young women and girls are being subjected to forced marriage, forced labour and rape.
Students and teachers have been deliberately targeted – with more than 300 schools damaged or destroyed and at least 196 teachers and 314 schoolchildren killed by the end of 2014.
UNICEF has stepped up its humanitarian response to the crisis. Over the past six months, UNICEF has provided over 60,000 children affected by the conflict in Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon and Chad with counseling and psychosocial support to help them ease the pain of their memories, reduce stress and cope with emotional distress.
- CAJ News