13th April, 2016
Ahead of 14 April two years anniversary of the kidnap of over 200 schoolgirls in Chibok, Borno State by Boko Haram terrorist group, United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF has raised alarm that the insurgent group is increasing the use of children as suicide bombers across the West African sub region.
In a report titled, Beyond Chibok released on Tuesday, the humanitarian group said the number of children involved in ‘suicide’ attacks in Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad and Niger has risen sharply over the past year, from 4 in 2014 to 44 in 2015. It added that more than 75 per cent of the children involved in the attacks are girls.
The report noted that as suicide’ attacks involving children become commonplace, some communities are starting to see children as threats to their safety with destructive consequences.
“Let us be clear: these children are victims, not perpetrators,” said Manuel Fontaine, UNICEF Regional Director for West and Central Africa. “Deceiving children and forcing them to carry out deadly acts has been one of the most horrific aspects of the violence in Nigeria and in neighbouring countries.”
According to UNICEF, ‘suicide’ bombing attacks in general spread beyond Nigeria’s borders to the neighbouring countries in 2015.
“The frequency of all suicide bombings increased from 32 in 2014 to 151 last year. In 2015, 89 of these attacks were carried out in Nigeria, 39 in Cameroon, 16 in Chad and 7 in Niger.
UNICEF said the report that between January 2014 and February 2016, Cameroon recorded the highest number of suicide attacks involving children (21), followed by Nigeria (17) and Chad (2).
“Over the past two years, nearly 1 in 5 suicide bombers was a child and three quarters of these children were girls. Last year, children were used in 1 out of 2 attacks in Cameroon, 1 out of 8 in Chad, and 1 out of 7 in Nigeria,” said the humanitarian group.
“The calculated use of children who may have been coerced into carrying bombs, has created an atmosphere of fear and suspicion that has devastating consequences for girls who have survived captivity and sexual violence by Boko Haram in North East Nigeria.
“Children who escaped from, or were released by, armed groups are often seen as potential security threats, as shown in recent research by UNICEF and International Alert. Children born as a result of sexual violence also encounter stigma and discrimination in their villages, host communities, and in camps for internally displaced persons.
The UNICEF report which assesses the impact conflict has had on children in the four countries affected by Boko Haram also indicated that nearly 1.3 million children have been displaced while about 1,800 schools are closed – either damaged, looted, burned down or used as shelter by displaced people in the areas affected by the insurgency.
In the same vein, the report also noted that over 5,000 children have been separated from their parents in the course of the conflict.