1.4m million children forced to flee their homes by Boko Haram attacks

Children in conflicts, Education in emergencies

Nigerian girls at a UNICEF-supported safe space in a camp for displaced near Maiduguri Picture: UNICEF/Esiebo

Half a million children have been forced to flee from their homes in the past five months because of growing attacks by Boko Haram.

That brings the total number of displaced children in northeastern Nigeria and neighbouring countries to 1.4 million.

The figures were revealed today by the United Nations children’s agency UNICEF. Manuel Fontaine, UNICEF Regional Director for West and Central Africa. said: “Each of these children running for their lives is a childhood cut short.

“It’s truly alarming to see that children and women continue to be killed, abducted and used to carry bombs.” 

Boko Haram’s rampage through the northeast of the country has forced huge numbers of children out of school. UNICEF said 208,000 children are not getting an education in the Lake Chad region alone.

In northern Nigeria, nearly 1.2 million children – more than half of them under five – have fled their homes with their families. An additional 265,000 children have been uprooted in Cameroon, Chad and Niger.

Several hundred people, mostly girls and women, have been rescued from Boko Haram by the military this year – but none so far has been identified as being among the 219 schoolgirls still missing after the Chibok mass abduction.

Nigerian refugees Bello aged 12 and Alei Kolo at camp in Lake region of Chad Picture: UNICEF/Cherkaoui

Yafati Sanda, a trained community volunteer at Dalori camp near the city of Maiduguri, supervises sessions at the child-friendly space there.

She said: “Most of the children had never even been to school. They have illiterate parents who did not send them to school. The parents do not resist their learning conventional subjects now, because the terror of Boko Haram has taught them the importance of education.”

Last month it was announced that almost 50,000 children displaced from their homes have been helped by the Safe Schools Initiative. Gordon Brown the UN Special Envoy for Global Education, announced the success of the partnership, catalysed by the Global Business Coalition for Education with the Nigerian government, and supported by UNICEF, UNDP and multiple donor agencies from across the world.

He told the UN: “It has now supported nearly 50,000 young girls and boys, displaced by the violence of Boko Haram, receive an education. Thanks to the campaigns led by A World at School, donors have contributed resources.”

That included supplying learning materials and 35,000 bags, training almost 700 teachers and transferring 2400 of the most at-risk girls and boys to safer schools in other parts of the country.”

UNICEF said today that, together with governments and partners in all four affected countries, it has scaled up its lifesaving operations to thousands of children and their families affected by the violence.

It has helped hundreds of thousands of children get vaccinations against measles, access to safe water, treatement for acute malnutrition and counselling and psychosocial support. But UNICEF said it has received only 3% of the $50.3 million required this year for its humanitarian response across the Lake Chad region.

Mr Fontaine said: “With more refugees and not enough resources, our ability to deliver lifesaving assistance on the ground is now seriously compromised. Without additional support, hundreds of thousands of children in need will lack access to basic health care, safe drinking water and education.”

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