*Calls on countries to move against it.
The United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) has lamented the increasing rate at which children are used in carrying out bomb attacks in public places across Nigeria, Chad, Niger and Cameron noting that it remains the worst use of children in conflict and must therefore be stopped.
This was contained in a press statement issued and made available to Daily Times in Abuja during the week.
According to the statement, a total number of 117 children has been used so far in carrying various attacks in countries; four in 2014, 56 in 2015, 30 in 2016 and 27 in the first three months of 2017.
“In the first three months of this year, the number of children used in bomb attacks is nearly the same as the whole of last year – this is the worst possible use of children in conflict, As a consequence, girls, boys and even infants have been viewed with increasing fear at markets and checkpoints, where they are thought to carry explosives.
The statement added ‘These children are victims, not perpetrators, forced and decieved into committing such horrific acts with many who have been associated with Boko Haram keeping their experience secret because they fear the stigmatization and even violent reprisals from their community. Some are compelled to bear their horrors in silence as they remove themselves from other groups for fear they might be outed and stigmatized.
UNICEF in its statement also lamented the prolonged period in which children are kept in the adminstrative custody for questioning and screening after being intercepted at checkpoints noting that in 2016 almost 1,500 children were under the administrative custody in four countries.
It therefore called on affected countries to end grave violation against children by Boko Haram including the recruitment and use of children in armed conflict as so called ‘sicide bombers, ensure that children who have been taking into a custody solely for their alleged or actual association to armed group are as quick as possible handed over to civilian authorities for reintegration and support, as well as provide care and protection for separated and unaccompanied children adding that all affected children by the crisis need psychosocial support and safe places to recover.
The statement however reiterated the Agency’s determination in working with communities and families fight all sort of stigma against children as well as provide and build a protective enviornment for them. It could recalled that In 2016, UNICEF reached over 312,000 children with psychosocial support in Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon and Niger, and reunited more than 800 children with their families.
In a crisis that has displaced more than 1.3 million children, UNICEF also supports local authorities to provide safe water and life-saving health services; restore access to education by creating temporary learning spaces; and deliver therapeutic treatment to malnourished children.
The response to this crisis remains severely underfunded. Last year, UNICEF’s US$154 million appeal for the Lake Chad Basin was only 40 per cent funded,the statement added.