More than 3,500 children, have been recruited by non-state armed groups between 2013 and 2017 and used in the ongoing armed conflict in north-east Nigeria, says the United Nations Children Education Fund (UNICEF) ahead of the fifth anniversary of the Chibok abduction.
The UNICEF in a statement on Thursday said that most of the children usually referred to as child-soldiers, were aged 13 to 17.
The agency revealed that 432 of the children were killed and maimed, 180 were abducted, and 43 girls were sexually abused in north-east Nigeria in 2018.
The UN children’s agency said that the numbers are only those that have been verified, while the true figures are likely to be higher.
Meanwhile, the UNICEF reminded that more than 100 of the abducted Chibok girls remain missing.
It said 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.
“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 UNICEF noted that Since 2012, non-state armed groups in north-east Nigeria such as Boko Haram 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.”
The UNICEF however said it will continue to offer its support to the Government of Nigeria in its strong efforts to protect the country’s children.
The UN agency added it will 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.