UNICEF on Tuesday said it is extremely concerned about an appalling increase in the cruel and calculated use of children, especially girls, as so called “human bombs” in northeast Nigeria.
In a media statement, UNICEF said that children have been used repeatedly in this way over the last few years and so far this year the number of children used is already four times higher than it was for all of 2016.
“Since Jan. 1, 83 children have been used as so called ‘human bombs’; 55 were girls, most often under 15 years old; 27 were boys, and one was a baby strapped to a girl,” UNICEF said.
According to the UN agency, 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,” UNICEF said.
UNICEF stressed that all of this is taking place in the context of a massive displacement and malnutrition crisis, a combination that is also deadly for children.
The UN agency said Northeast Nigeria is one of four countries and regions facing the specter of famine, with up to 450,000 children at risk of severe acute malnutrition this year.
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.