(By Estera Popowska)
The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) said Monday that the conflict in northeast Nigeria between Boko Haram, Nigeria’s military forces and civilian self-defense groups have forced some 800,000 children to flee their homes.
According to UNICEF’s report titled “Missing Childhoods” the “number of children running for their lives within Nigeria, or crossing over the border to Chad, Niger and Cameroon, has more than doubled in just less than a year.”
UNICEF also launched a social media campaign using the hashtag #bringbackourchildhood. The campaign has "leading Snapchat artists" sharing images based on drawings from children in Nigeria, Chad, Niger and Cameroon. Artwork can also be seen on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr
UNICEF said, over 1.5 million people have fled their homes due to the violence and some 1.2 million are displaced internally, while others have crossed into Cameroon, Chad and Niger.
According to UNICEF, the “vast majority of the displaced -- more than 880,000 -- are staying with host communities with little access to humanitarian support, putting additional strains on already stretched health, education and social services.”
Manuel Fontaine, UNICEF regional director for West and Central Africa reportedly said the April 14, 2014, kidnappings at a girls school in Chibok by the Islamist group Boko Haram "is only one of endless tragedies being replicated on an epic scale across Nigeria and the region.”
“Scores of girls and boys have gone missing in Nigeria -- abducted, recruited by armed groups, attacked, used as weapons, or forced to flee violence. They have the right to get their childhoods back.”
CNN reported UNICEF as saying kids are being used by Boko Haram as combatants, cooks, and lookouts. "Young women and girls are being subjected to forced marriage, forced labor and rape," it said. At least 196 teachers and 314 schoolchildren were killed in 2014, and more than 300 schools were damaged or destroyed. (Source: Agencies)