United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) says since January, Boko Haram insurgents have used 83 children as “human bombs”.
In a statement, UNICEF said while 55 were girls, mostly under the age of 15 years old, 27 were boys, and one was a baby strapped to a girl.
It said the use of children in such attacks has created suspicion and fear of children who have been released, rescued or escaped from Boko Haram captivity.
It said many children who have managed to get away from captivity face rejection when they try to reintegrate into their communities.
“Since January 1, 2017, 83 children have been used as ‘human bombs’; 55 were girls, most often under 15 years old; 27 were boys, and one was a baby strapped to a girl. The sex of the baby used in the explosion was impossible to determine,” the statement read.
“The use of children in this way is an atrocity. Children used as ‘human bombs’ are, above all, victims, not perpetrators.
“The armed group commonly known as Boko Haram has sometimes, but not always, claimed responsibility for these attacks, which target the civilian population.
“The use of children in such attacks has had a further impact of creating suspicion and fear of children who have been released, rescued or escaped from Boko Haram.
“As a result, many children who have managed to get away from captivity face rejection when they try to reintegrate into their communities, compounding their suffering.
“All of this is taking place in the context of a massive displacement and malnutrition crisis – a combination that is also deadly for children.”
UNICEF said it is providing psychosocial support for children who have been held by Boko Haram and is also working with families and communities to foster the acceptance of children when they return.
“This includes providing social and economic reintegration support to the children and their families,” it read.
“UNICEF also supports reconciliation activities in north-east Nigeria, led by respected community and religious leaders, including influential women, to help promote tolerance, acceptance, and reintegration.”