Use of children as ‘human bombs’ rising in north east Nigeria


Use of children as ‘human bombs’ rising in north east Nigeria

On 14 October 2016, Interview excerpts with 17-year old ‘Aminata’, who was forced to live with Boko Haram for 2 years: “They dragged me to a car. They had taken me and another 14 girls from my neighborhood. I was held there for two months and then I was forced to marry one of the insurgents. Every time he wanted to have sex I refused, and then he would rape me and beat me up. My ‘husband’ told me that if he decides or wants to, he will send me and my co-wife to town as suicide bombers. I really miss my family and I wish I could see them again.” UNICEF estimates that +7,000 women and girls have been held and subjected to violence by Boko Haram. Most are believed to have been raped or forcibly “married” to their captors. When they manage to escape or are released, they need psychological and medical support to come to terms with their experiences and reintegrate with their families and communities. In addition to the trauma of captivity, many face stigmatization, discrimination and rejection by family and community upon return. Community members are often afraid the women and girls have been indoctrinated by Boko Haram and pose a threat to their communities. UNICEF, in collaboration with International Alert, provides psychosocial support for girls and women who have experienced sexual violence, including their children born as a result

© UNICEF/Abubakar

17-year old ‘Aminata’, who was forced to live with Boko Haram for two yeas sits in an IDP camp in Maiduguri, Borno State, Nigeria

Young girls are most frequent victims

ABUJA/GENEVA/DAKAR/NEW YORK/HONG KONG, 22 August 2017 – UNICEF is extremely concerned about an appalling increase in the cruel and calculated use of children, especially girls, as ‘human bombs’ in northeast Nigeria. Children have been used repeatedly in this way over the last few years and so far this year, the number of children used is already four times higher than it was for all of last year.

Since 1 January 2017, 83 children have been used as ‘human bombs’; 55 were girls, most often under 15 years old; 27 were boys, and one was a baby strapped to a girl.

The use of children in this way is an atrocity.

Children used as ‘human bombs’ are, above all, victims, not perpetrators.

The armed group commonly known as Boko Haram has sometimes, but not always, claimed responsibility for these attacks, which target the civilian population.

The use of children in such attacks has had a further impact of creating suspicion and fear of children who have been released, rescued or escaped from Boko Haram. As a result, many children who have managed to get away from captivity face rejection when they try to reintegrate into their communities, compounding their suffering.

All of this is taking place in the context of a massive displacement and malnutrition crisis – a combination that is also deadly for children.  There are 1.7 million people displaced by the insurgency in the northeast, 85 per cent of them in Borno State, where most of these attacks take place.

Northeast Nigeria is one of four countries and regions facing the spectre of famine, with up to 450,000 children at risk of severe acute malnutrition this year.

UNICEF is providing psychosocial support for children who have been held by Boko Haram and is also working with families and communities to foster the acceptance of children when they return. This includes providing social and economic reintegration support to the children and their families.

UNICEF also supports reconciliation activities in northeast Nigeria, led by respected community and religious leaders, including influential women, to help promote tolerance, acceptance and reintegration.