About 800,000 children have fled their homes in north-eastern Nigeria because of the conflict with the Islamist terrorist group Boko Haram, UNICEF said Monday.
The number of child refugees has more than doubled in the past year as they fled to Chad, Niger and Cameroon and within Nigeria, the UN children’s agency said.
“Scores of girls and boys have gone missing in Nigeria – abducted, recruited by armed groups, attacked, used as weapons or forced to flee violence,” said Manuel Fontaine, UNICEF’s regional director for West and Central Africa.
The agency’s report was released a year after the Boko Haram’s kidnapping of 276 girls from their school in the north-eastern city of Chibok, inciting worldwide condemnation. More than 200 of the girls remain missing. Fontaine said those abductions were only one of numerous “tragedies being replicated on an epic scale across Nigeria and the region.”
Boko Haram, which seeks to impose the strictest application of Islamist law, has killed about 14,000 people in northern Nigeria since 2009.
UNICEF said the group uses children as fighters, cooks, porters and scouts, rapes girls and women, forces them into marriage and sexually enslaves them.
The children fleeing the violence are often traumatized, lose contact with their families and are cut off from education and health care, UNICEF said.
Boko Haram also targets schoolchildren and teachers, damaging or destroying more then 300 schools and killing at least 196 teachers and 314 schoolchildren through the end of 2014, the agency said. GNA