Over 3,500 Children Recruited By Armed Group in North-east for Insurgency, says UNICEF

By Alex Uangbaoje, Kaduna

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has revealed that over 3,500 children were recruited and used by non-state armed groups in the north-east between 2013 and 2017, for insurgency.

UNICEF in a state signed by Mohamed Fall, Country Representative in Nigeria said most of children have been used in the ongoing armed conflict in north-east, adding that “these numbers are only those that have been verified, while the true figures are likely to be higher”.

The statement was issued ahead of the fifth anniversary of the Chibok school girls abduction who were abducted on April 14, 2014.

He explained that the anniversary of the abduction is a grim reminder that widespread abductions of children and grave violations of children’s rights continue to take place in the north-east.

“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,” the agency said.

“In addition to these children, 432 children were killed and maimed, 180 were abducted, and 43 girls were sexually abused in north-east Nigeria in 2018.

“Meanwhile, more than 100 of the abducted Chibok girls remain missing.

“The anniversary of the abduction, marked on 14 April, is a grim reminder that widespread abductions of children and grave violations of children’s rights continue to take place in the north-east.”

The UNICEF country representative, called for children’s right protection, saying the parties involved in the conflict should end the violation against children.

“Children should feel safe at home, in schools and on their playgrounds at all times,” he said.

“We are calling on the parties to the conflict to fulfill 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.

“Since 2012, non-state armed groups in north-east Nigeria have recruited and used children as combatants and non-combatants, raped and forced girls to marry, and committed other grave violations against children. Some of the girls become pregnant in captivity and give birth without any medical care or attention.

“UNICEF continues to offer its support to the Government of Nigeria in its strong efforts to protect the country’s children. UNICEF works 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.

“In 2017 and 2018, UNICEF and its partners provided community-based reintegration services to more than 9,800 people formerly associated with armed groups, as well as vulnerable children in communities.

“These services help to trace children’s families, return them to their communities, and offer psycho-social support, education, vocational training, informal apprenticeships, and opportunities to improve livelihoods.”

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