Doosuur Iwambe, Abuja
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has revealed that a regional militia allied with Nigerian government forces freed on Friday almost 900 children it had used in the war against Islamist Boko Haram insurgents.
In a statement released on its website on Friday, the move has brought the total number of children freed to more than 1,700, a UNICEF statement said.
Welcoming the development, UNICEF Representative in Nigeria and the Co-chair of United Nations Country Task Force on Monitoring and Reporting on Grave Child Rights Violations (CTFMR), Mohamed Fall said, “any commitment for children that is matched with action is a step in the right direction for the protection of children’s rights and must be recognized and encouraged’’.
“Children of north-east Nigeria have borne the brunt of this conflict. They have been used by armed groups in combatant and non-combatant roles and witnessed death, killing and violence. This participation in the conflict has had serious implications for their physical and emotional well-being.”
Since September 2017, when the CJTF signed an action plan committing to put measures in place to end and prevent recruitment and use of children, 1,727 children and young people have been released. Since then, there has been no new recruitment of children by the CJTF.
The children and young people released today will benefit from reintegration programmes to help them return to civilian life, seize new opportunities for their own development, and contribute to bringing lasting peace in Nigeria, as productive citizens of their country.
Without this support, many of the children released from armed groups struggle to fit into civilian life, as most are not educated and have no vocational skills.
In the ongoing-armed conflict in northeast Nigeria, more than 3,500 children were recruited and used by non-state armed groups between 2013 and 2017. Others have been abducted, maimed, raped and killed.
“We cannot give up the fight for the children, as long as children are still affected by the fighting. We will continue until there is no child left in the ranks of all armed groups in Nigeria,” said Fall.
UNICEF continues to work closely with state authorities and partners to support the implementation of reintegration programmes for all children released from armed groups, as well as others affected by the ongoing conflict.
The gender and age-appropriate community-based reintegration support interventions include an initial assessment of their well-being, psychosocial support, education, vocational training, informal apprenticeships, and opportunities to improve livelihoods.
At least 9,800 people formerly associated with armed groups, as well as vulnerable children in communities, have accessed such services between 2017 and 2018. Combatant and non-combatant roles and witnessed death, killing and violence.”