Abuja — The United Nations Children Education Fund (UNICEF) has condemned the spate of using children, especially young girls, as suicide bombers in North-east Nigeria by Boko Haram terrorists, describing it as cruel and an atrocity.
UNICEF in a statement on Tuesday from its Geneva head office, said in the last few years and so far this year, the number of children used is already four times higher than it was for all of last year. It added that children used as 'human bombs' are, above all, victims not perpetrators.
Since January 1, 2017, 83 children have been used as 'human bombs'; 55 were girls, most often under 15 years old; 27 were boys, and one was a bomb strapped to a girl. The sex of the baby used in the explosion was impossible to determine.
"The use of children in such attacks has had a further impact of creating suspicion and fear of children who have been released, rescued or escaped from Boko Haram. As a result, many children who have managed to get away from captivity face rejection when they try to reintegrate into their communities, compounding their suffering.
"All of these are taking place in the context of a massive displacement and malnutrition crisis - a combination that is also deadly for children. There are 1.7 million people displaced by the insurgency in the North-east, 85 per cent of them in Borno State, where most of these attacks take place."
North-east Nigeria is one of four countries and regions facing the spectre of famine, with up to 450,000 children at risk of severe acute malnutrition this year.
UNICEF in the statement made available by Chief of Communication, Doune Porter, said it is providing psychosocial support for children who have been held by Boko Haram and is also working with families and communities to foster the acceptance of children when they return. This includes providing social and economic reintegration support to the children and their families.
"UNICEF also supports reconciliation activities in Northeast Nigeria, led by respected community and religious leaders, including influential women, to help promote tolerance, acceptance and reintegration," the statement read in part.