The United Nations Children Fund, UNICEF, has said that at least 27 teenage girls have been used as suicide bombers in Borno within the first quarter of 2017.
UNICEF said this figure has surpassed the entire number of child suicide bombings that occurred in whole of 2016.
This, according to UNICEF’s Chief of Maiduguri field office, Geoffrey Ijumba, underscores the enormity of the challenges associated with child protection within the volatile northeast Nigeria.
Despite military successes against Boko Haram, records obtained from UNICEF and other aid agencies have indicated that the insurgents have continued to carry out deadly attacks using under aged kids as suicide bombers.
Mr. Ijumba who spoke to journalists at the UNICEF office in Maiduguri ahead the marking of the third-year anniversary of the kidnap of scores of secondary school girls from Chibok, Borno State, said the event should not be seen as any form of celebration. Rather, it should be used as a moment of reflection on the worsening humanitarian crises in the Lake Chad region.
“We are marking the day because a great human right violation was committed against these girls; and since after the abduction of the Boko Haram, the region does not know peace,” he said.
“Thousands of homes have been uprooted; more livelihood has been destroyed; education facilities were destroyed; teachers, doctors, midwives, farmers halve been killed. Water sources, farmland have been destroyed.”
He said the Chibok girls’ third year anniversary should not be restricted to worrying about just the faith of the abducted girls; “but what it means to the entire children in the north-east.”
He said the occasion should also be used to acknowledge the resistance of the people of the north-east Nigeria, who despite the dangers posed by Boko Haram could still get their schools opened; and children, especially the girl child, enrolled in schools.
The act of violence has not deterred Nigerians from continuing to pursue education.
“There is no other testimony to defeat of Boko Haram than seeing a girl child in camps going to school. But there are still so many children out there who are not yet attending schools and they need to be helped to get education as a basic right”.
On nutrition, the UNICEF chieftain said there are about half a million children who are severely malnourished, and who must be catered for in the region.
“The insurgency has robbed the children of their protective environment that they need to grow. We need to see the children being free to play, school and live freely. But the children have been robbed of their childhood; they are forcibly made to participating in the conflict.
He said in helping to reverse the trend, UNICEF has teamed up with the Nigerian government to ensure that the rights of the children are protected.
“We are trying to make sure that every child counts,” he said.