The United Nations children’s agency, UNICEF, has raised concern over the number of children recruited and killed by non-state armed groups in Nigeria’s north-east region.
The agency made this known in a statement on Friday ahead of the fifth anniversary of the Chibok girls abduction on April 14.
“More than 3,500 children, most of whom were aged 13 to 17, were recruited by non-state armed groups between 2013 and 2017 and have been used in the ongoing armed conflict in north-east Nigeria,” it said.
The agency affirmed that the numbers were only those that have been verified, while the true figures were likely to be higher.
It added that in addition to the radicalized children, 432 children were killed and maimed, 180 were abducted, and 43 girls were sexually abused in the region in 2018.
According to the statement, non-state armed groups in the North-east have recruited and used children as combatants and non-combatants, raped and forced girls to marry, and committed other grave violations against children since 2012.
It added that some of the girls became pregnant in captivity and gave birth without any medical care or attention.
UNICEF noted further that more than 100 of the schoolgirls abducted Chibok community of Borno State were still missing.
“Children should feel safe at home, in schools and on their playgrounds at all times,” said Mohamed Malick Fall, UNICEF Representative in Nigeria.
“We are calling on the parties to the conflict to fulfil their obligations under international law to end violations against children and to stop targeting civilian infrastructure, including schools.
“This is the only way we can begin to make lasting improvements in the lives of children in this devastated part of Nigeria,” he added.