Nigeria’s North East region children deserve to grow up in peace — UN envoy

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United Nations  –   The children of Nigeria’s North East region deserved to grow up in peace, Ms Leila Zerrougui, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict said.

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Zerrougui made this know in a statement on Wednesday in New York on the eve of the two-year anniversary of the abduction of the
276 school girls in Chibok, Borno.

She said “it is up to us to be their voice and give them back the life they deserve.”

She added that the international community’s efforts to support initiatives to bring children back to school in the region was essential and must be maintained.

The envoy said “it is the collective responsibility of all to keep shining a spotlight on these children in need and ensure that they have a future in which they can overcome these challenges.

“In the past two years, the conflict has continued to grow and Boko Haram’s activities spilled over into neighbouring countries of Cameroon, Chad and Niger.

“More children have been abducted. Hundreds of boys and girls have been killed, maimed and recruited by Boko Haram.

“In what has become one of the armed group’s most gruesome tactics, women and children, girls in particular, have been forced to serve as suicide bombers in crowded markets and public places, killing many civilians.

“It is not surprise that in the midst of such violence, families decided to flee to safer areas in Nigeria and to neighbouring countries.” d

He said that `with over two million people displaced, including more than one million children, often separated from their families,
the UN described these massive displacements as one of the fastest growing crises in Africa.

In the past year, she said, the Government of Nigeria had retaken control of some territories in the country’s northeast and many
Boko Haram captives were liberated or were able to escape, including many children.

She said that during a visit to Nigeria in 2015, she met some of the displaced families and was shocked at the devastation suffered by their communities.

Zerrougui said girls and boys told distressing stories about their captivity, including how entire villages were burned to the ground, and recounted stories of rape and sexual violence, recruitment and use of children by the group, as well as other violations.

“These children yearn for the safety of their families, but going back to their communities can mean persecution and mistrust.

“Girls who come back as young mothers face even greater challenges and traumatised children require assistance and support to fight stigma and rejection.

“The conflict’s impact on education has been no less profound as over 1,500 schools in northeastern Nigeria have been destroyed and the teachers are gone.

“Hundreds of thousands of children are missing out on their education.”

She added that much had been done to help children reintegrate back into their communities and return to school, but they required
more resources.

The abduction of the Chibok girls, she said, catalysed international action, including in the Security Council.

In June 2015, UN Council members adopted resolution 2225 that made the act of abduction by an armed group or force a trigger to list them in the annexes of the Secretary-General’s annual report on children and armed conflict. (NAN)

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