By Chika Onyesi
Years after the abduction of Nigerias’ Chibok girls, the United Nations Children’s Fund has sustained its call on government to protect the rights of children.
The call comes ahead of the 5th anniversary of the kidnap of about 276 school girls from a boarding school in Chibok, Borno State Nigeria.
Despite efforts to check violence against children, UNICEF reports that widespread abductions of children and grave violations of children’s rights continue to take place in the north-east.
The UN children’s agency says more than 3,500 children, aged between 13 and 17 were recruited by non-state armed groups between 2013 and 2017 and forcibly used in the on-going armed conflict in the north-east.
In addition to these numbers, another 432 children were killed and maimed, 180 were abducted, and 43 girls sexually abused in the same region in 2018 alone.
These numbers are only those that have been verified, while the true figures are likely to be higher, according to UNICEF.
Meanwhile, more than 100 of the abducted Chibok girls remain missing.
The UNICEF Representative in Nigeria, Mohamed Fall, says the agency wants all warring parties to fulfill their obligations under the international law to end violations against children.
He says the conflicting groups must stop targeting children and civilian infrastructure, including schools.
“Ending the violence is the only way we can begin to make lasting improvements in the lives of children in this devastated part of Nigeria.”
“Children should feel safe at home, in schools and on their playgrounds at all times,” said Mohamed Malick Fall, UNICEF Representative in Nigeria.
According to UNICEF, 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 since 2012.
Some of the girls become pregnant in captivity and give birth without any medical care or attention.
While working with the Borno State Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development to support children who have been rescued or escaped from captivity, the children’s agency says it will continue to offer its support to the Nigerian government in its resolve to protect children
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 psychosocial support, education, vocational training, informal apprenticeships, and opportunities to improve livelihoods.