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More than 3,500 children recruited, used by armed groups since 2013, UNICEF says on Chibok girls’ remembrance day

AS it marks the fifth year following the abduction of hundreds of Chibok girls in Northeast Nigeria, the United Nations Children’s agency remember the many who are still in captivity of the Armed groups.

The anniversary of the abduction is marked on April 14, the day that more than 200 girls were abducted in 2014. These girls the UNICEF described them as a symbol of the ongoing brutal armed conflict happening in Northeast Nigeria. And they represent a fraction of the thousands of girls and boys who have been abducted by the Boko Haram groups.

More than 100 of the abducted Chibok girls still remain missing, said the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) in a press statement on Friday.

Giving a breakdown of the abducted between 2013 and 2017, the children agency said more than 3,500 children, most of whom were aged 13 to 17, were recruited by non-state armed groups between 2013 and 2017 and have been used in the ongoing armed conflict in north-east Nigeria.

It added that the numbers were only those that have been verified, while the true figures are likely to be higher.

UNICEF said 432 children were killed and maimed, 180 abducted and 43 girls were sexually abused in the northeastern part of Nigeria in 2018.

“Children should feel safe at home, in schools and on their playgrounds at all times,” said Mohamed Malick Fall, UNICEF Representative in Nigeria.

“We are calling on the parties to the conflict to fulfill their obligations under international law to end violations against children and to stop targeting civilian infrastructure, including schools.”

That, he said, was the only way the agency could begin to make lasting improvements in the lives of children in the devastated part of Nigeria.

“Since 2012, non-state armed groups in north-east Nigeria 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,” the statement read in part.

It included that UNICEF and its partners, in 2017 and 2018, provided community-based reintegration services to more than 9,800 people formerly associated with armed groups, as well as vulnerable children in communities.

“These services help to trace children’s families, return them to their communities, and offer psychosocial support, education, vocational training, informal apprenticeships, and opportunities to improve livelihoods,” UNICEF said.

The more than 100 Chibok girls are not the only girls in the captivity of the Boko Haram group. Leah Sharibu who clocked 15 on May 14, 2018, celebrated her birthday in the captive land. Leah was one of the schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram in February 2018 from Government Secondary School, Dapchi, Yobe State but while all the other girls were released a month later following negotiations by the federal government, the little girl was refused freedom because she refused to be converted to Islam.

Now it remains 32 days to another birthday remembrance of Leah, Many Nigerians are hoping that the girl will celebrate her 16 years birthday in freedom, with her parents.

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