Nigeria: Boko Haram - UNICEF Excited As Army Releases 223 Children From Custody

Nigerian soldiers (file photo).
4 March 2020

Abuja — The United Nations Children's Fund, UNICEF, said a total of 233 including ten girls were released last night from custody by the Nigerian Army.

Some of the children who had been missing for up to four to five years, with many presumed dead by their families, according to the global humanitarian agency, were released into "safe custody of Borno State Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development, UNICEF and Borno State authorities in Maiduguri, North-East Nigeria."

A statement, Wednesday, by Sam Kaalu, Communications Officer, UNICEF Nigeria, said, "The children will now immediately enter a programme that will help them reintegrate into their communities, re-engage with their families, and take the first steps towards creating a new life and means of livelihood."

The statement read in full:"Last night, 223 children including 10 girls were released from Nigerian Army administrative custody and Maiduguri Maximum Security Prison after they were cleared of suspected ties with armed groups.

"They were released to the safe custody of Borno State Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development, UNICEF and Borno State authorities in Maiduguri, north-east Nigeria.

"The children will now immediately enter a programme that will help them reintegrate into their communities, re-engage with their families, and take the first steps towards creating a new life and means of livelihood.

"Some of the children had been missing for up to four to five years, with many presumed dead by their families.

"The release of these children is a huge step forward and one to be welcomed and celebrated," said Peter Hawkins, UNICEF Representative. "These children deserve to have a normal childhood - and now require our full care and support to re-enter the lives that were so brutally interrupted by this devastating conflict."

"Now in its tenth year, the conflict in north-east Nigeria continues to uproot and devastate the lives of tens of thousands of children, women, and men.

"Since 2016, 3,559 people associated with armed groups have been released from administrative custody, including 1,743 children (1,125 boys, 618 girls). All have gone through the Bulumkutu Rehabilitation Center in Maiduguri in Borno State and have since been reunited with their families or placed in the most appropriate alternative care, where they are accessing rehabilitation services and reintegration support in their communities.

"UNICEF is working closely with Nigerian state authorities to help with reintegration programmes for all children formerly associated with non-state armed groups, and others affected by the ongoing conflict in north-east Nigeria.

"Age and sex appropriate community-based reintegration interventions include an initial assessment of their well-being, psychosocial support, education, vocational training, informal apprenticeships, and opportunities to improve livelihoods. At least 12,264 people formerly associated with armed groups, as well as vulnerable children in communities, have accessed such services since 2017.

"UNICEF and Borno State Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development are looking forward to receiving more children."

Recall that since 2012, non-state armed groups in the North-East, 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.

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