The United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF, has raised alarm over the number of Nigerian Children recruited by Insurgents in the country’s north-eastern region.
This was made known in a statement released by the United Nation’s agency on Friday, ahead of the fifth anniversary of the Chibok abduction.
“More than 3,500 children, most of whom were aged 13 to 17, were recruited by non-state armed groups between 2013 and 2017 and have been used in the ongoing armed conflict in north-east Nigeria,” it said.
The agency also said expressed concern that the figures may be higher than 3.500, since it only stated the verified figures.
It revealed that in addition to the children, 432 children were killed and maimed, 180 were kidnapped, and 43 girls were sexually abused in the region in 2018 alone.
UNICEF further stated that over 100 of the schoolgirls abducted in Chibok community of Borno State were still missing.
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It said the anniversary of the abduction, marked on April 14, was a reminder of widespread abductions of children and grave violations of children’s rights in the North-east.
“Children should feel safe at home, in schools and on their playgrounds at all times,” said Mohamed Malick Fall, UNICEF Representative in Nigeria.
“We are calling on the parties to the conflict to fulfil their obligations under international law to end violations against children and to stop targeting civilian infrastructure, including schools.
“This is the only way we can begin to make lasting improvements in the lives of children in this devastated part of Nigeria,” the statement read.
According to the statement, illegal armed groups in the North-east have recruited and used children as combatants and non-combatants, raped and forced girls to marry, and committed other extreme violations against children since 2012.
It added that some of the girls became pregnant in captivity and gave birth without any medical care or attention.
UNICEF, however, promised to continue to offer its support to the Nigerian Government in its strong efforts to protect children across the country.
It also pledged to continuously work with the Borno State Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development and other partners to support children who have been rescued or escaped from captivity.
The UN agency said it provided community-based reintegration services to more than 9,800 people formerly associated with armed groups, as well as vulnerable children in communities in collaboration with partners in 2017 and 2018.
It stated that through these services, some children were helped to trace their families, returned to their communities, offered psychosocial support, education, vocational training, informal apprenticeships, and opportunities to better their lives.