Plight of 2.4m children uprooted or trapped by Boko Haram in Lake Chad basin

Children in conflicts, Education in emergencies

Nigerian Khadija Kaku lives in refugee camp in Chad Picture: UNICEF/Tremeau


Khadija Kaku is only 15. But already she has lived in five different places because of drought and conflict.

She has seen her village destroyed, witnessed threats to her school and fled barefoot through the bush for days, leaving her beloved schoolbooks behind. 

“One morning when we entered the classroom, we found a letter slipped under the door of the school at night, written in Hausa by Boko Haram,” said Khadija. “The letter ordered parents to send their children home and teachers to leave the area.”

The Nigerian teenager now lives in a refugee camp in Daresalam. It is in the Lake Chad basin, home to 21 million people across four countries – 2.6 million of them displaced from their communities by conflict.

Years of violence by Boko Haram have led to a worsening humanitarian crisis in the region that has displaced 1.4 million children and left at least one million still trapped in hard-to-reach areas.

A report released today by the United Nations children’s agency UNICEF looks at the impact of the Boko Haram insurgency on children in Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad and Niger and its devastating toll on children.

The report says that:

  • An estimated 475,000 children across Lake Chad will suffer from severe acute malnutrition this year, up from 175,000 at the beginning of the year
  • In north-east Nigeria alone, about 20,000 children have been separated from their families
  • An estimated 38 children have been used to carry out “suicide” bomb attacks so far this year, taking the total since 2014 to 86

Children prepare fish at Takal on the shores of Lake Chad Picture: UNICEF/Tremeau


The report adds: ““Fear of abuse, sexual violence, forced recruitment or death have forced children to leave their towns and villages, often with as little as the clothes on their back.

“Many of the children caught in the conflict have been subjected to unimaginable violence and abuse – they have lost their families, their homes and years of education.”

In May, the Education Cannot Wait Fund for education in emergencies was launched to provide the money needed to supply safe schooling in humanitarian crises.

The fund aims to reach more than 13.6 million children and youth living in crisis situations with quality education over the next five years and 75 million by 2030. But donors have been slow to provide the initial money needed to get the fund going.

UNICEF is working with partners to meet the basic needs of children and their families in the conflict-affected areas.

So far this year, nearly 170,000 children have received psychosocial support, almost 100,000 were treated for severe acute malnutrition and more than 100,000 took part in school and learning programmes.

But the agency has received only 13% of the $41.2 million it needs for its humanitarian response in the Lake Chad basin.

For now, Khadija is in school. She said: “I’m sure it’s not over, we’ll have to move again. I don’t know when, as far from now as possible.

“I’ve started going to school here. It’s a bit difficult for me, since it’s all in French but I’m getting used to it.”

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