Almost 800,000 children have been forced to flee their homes as a result of the conflict in northeast Nigeria between Boko Haram, military forces and civilian self-defence groups, according to a new report from UNICEF.
More than 1.5 million people have fled their homes due to the violence in Nigeria, including 800,000 children. This includes 1.2 million displaced inside Nigeria and around 200,000 who have crossed to neighbouring countries.
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The majority of those displaced are staying with host communities with little access to humanitarian support.
Since 2009, when Boko Haram made a marked turn towards violence, at least 15,000 people have been killed, with more than 7300 killed in 2014 alone.
In recent months, Boko Haram attacks have increased in frequency and brutality, killing more than 1,000 civilians since the beginning of the year.
Children have become deliberate targets, often subjected to extreme violence – from sexual abuse and forced marriage to kidnappings and brutal killings.
Released one year after the abduction of more than 200 schoolgirls in Chibok, The UNICEF’s Missing Childhoods report reveals that 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.
“The abduction of more than 200 girls in Chibok is only one of endless tragedies being replicated on an epic scale across Nigeria and the region,” says Manuel Fontaine, UNICEF Regional Director for West and Central Africa.
“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”.
The figures come as UNICEF draws attention to the devastating impact of the conflict on children across the region using the hashtag #bringbackourchildhood.
Missing Childhoods outlines how the conflict is exerting a heavy toll on children in Nigeria and across the region in an increasing number of ways:
Children are being used within the ranks of Boko Haram- as combatants, cooks, porters and look-outs.
Young women and girls are being subjected to forced marriage, forced labour and rape.
Students and teachers have been deliberately targeted, with more than 300 schools damaged or destroyed and at least 196 teachers and 314 schoolchildren killed by the end of 2014.