The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), yesterday, said 25 schools had been attacked and 1,440 pupils abducted in Nigeria this year.
The information was contained in a report titled, ‘Children in West and Central Africa among those who suffer highest rates of grave violations in armed conflict.’
Focusing on the impact of armed conflicts on children on the continent, the document observed that West and Central African regions were worst hit.
In the Nigerian scenario, it said North East kids had suffered the most of the 12-year insurgency in the zone. Describing the situation as unacceptable, UNICEF Chief of Maiduguri Field Office, Phuong Nguyen, said: “This report shows the extent of the grave violations of children’s rights in Nigeria and across the West and Central Africa region – violations that must be ended by all parties to conflicts. Children must have an opportunity to grow, learn, work and contribute to the healthy future of this country. That can only happen if they are protected from violence and the worst impacts of conflict.”
The report called for increased support for efforts to prevent and respond to grave violations against children, as well as for scaling-up the documentation of such violations.
“Since 2016, the West and Central Africa region has recorded more than 21,000 children verified by the United Nations (UN) as recruited and used by armed forces and non-state armed groups, and more than 2,200 children victims of sexual violence. More than 3,500 children were abducted and more than 1,500 incidents of attacks on schools and hospitals were recorded.
“In Nigeria, there have been 25 attacks on schools so far this year, with 1,440 students abducted,” the document revealed.
In response to the spike in children’s unmet essential needs, including protection, UNICEF has been working with governments, local authorities and partners to strengthen the monitoring and reporting mechanism, support the release and reintegration of children from armed forces and groups, reunite separated children with their families, provide medical and psychosocial care for conflict-affected children, and provide care for survivors of sexual and gender-based violence.
“Mental health and psychosocial support for children and adolescents are essential and at the heart of UNICEF’s humanitarian response. When provided with the necessary care and psychosocial support, access to schooling and access to livelihoods, children are able to process what they have experienced and rebuild their lives,” said UNICEF Regional Director for West and Central Africa, Marie-Pierre Poirier.