A recent report has confirmed that the number of uprooted children has hit 1.4 million as a result of Boko Haram’s relentless acts of terror across extensive swathes of Northern Nigeria, as well as some of its bordering regions.
According to UNICEF, an estimated 500,000 children may have fled into neighboring lands following a deadly surge in the atrocities of the militant group during the recent months. Nearly 1.2 million displaced children are believed to be from Nigeria with many under five years of age. Manuel Fontaine, UNICEF Regional Director for West and Central Africa, expressed alarming concerns in a recent statement.
“With more refugees and not enough resources, our ability to deliver lifesaving assistance on the ground is now seriously compromised. Without additional support, hundreds of thousands of children in need will lack access to basic health care, safe drinking water and education. Each of these children running for their lives is a childhood cut short. It’s truly alarming to see that children and women continue to be killed, abducted and used to carry bombs.”
The extremist group had sparked international condemnation by drawing headlines in April last year with its abduction of more than 270 schoolgirls from the town of Chibok in Nigeria’s north-eastern state of Borno. The Nigerian government’s increased offensive earlier this year had driven the group into carrying out a series of increasingly frequent suicide bombings, forcibly indoctrinating young children and molding them into belligerent perpetrators of violence. In many instances, villages have been terrorized and their inhabitants traumatized; young girls snatched from schools and exploited to the extent of furthering the group’s malicious designs by frequently targeting commercial centers and transportation hubs across the region.
According to the U.N. report, humanitarian assistance received by UNICEF this year in response to the conflict and mayhem gripping the region has fallen perilously short of the required $50.3 million USD. Consequently, many of the affected children remain exposed to recurring outbreaks of measles without adequate recourse to immunization. Access to safe drinking water has also been largely nonexistent while as many as 200,000 children are believed to be out of school.
In spite of the Nigerian military’s territorial gains with a considerable stretch of Boko Haram strongholds successfully seized, thousands continue to perish in the latter’s onslaught from time to time. The Boko Haram campaign, motivated by a militant-extremist mindset, originated in 2009, uprooting millions and compelling many to flee to West African countries, further constraining neighboring economies and exhausting their resources.
[Image Credit: Sylvain Cherkaoui/UNICEF]