North East : Fate of thousands of abducted women remains unknown – UN

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This 15 year-old Nigerian refugee at the Minawao refugee camp in northern Cameroon, was abducted by Boko Haram and spent four months in captivity. Photo credit : UNICEF

The plight of 219 Chibok schoolgirls abducted two years ago is all too common in Nigeria’s conflict-affected north-eastern communities, and up to 7,000 women and girls might be living in abduction and sex slavery, senior United Nations officials warned today.

“Humanitarian agencies are concerned that two years have passed, and still the fate of the Chibok girls and the many, many other abductees is unknown,” said Fatma Samoura, Humanitarian Coordinator for Nigeria.

At the hands of their captors, they have suffered forced recruitment, forced marriage, sexual slavery and rape, and have been used to carry bombs. “Between 2,000 and 7,000 women and girls are living in abduction and sex slavery,” said Jean Gough, Country Representative of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

This 15 year-old Nigerian refugee at the Minawao refugee camp in northern Cameroon, was abducted by Boko Haram and spent four months in captivity. Photo credit : UNICEF
This 15 year-old Nigerian refugee at the Minawao refugee camp in northern Cameroon, was abducted by Boko Haram and spent four months in captivity. Photo credit : UNICEF

Women and girls who have escaped Boko Haram have reported undergoing a systematic training programme to train them as bombers, according to UNICEF. And 85 per cent of the suicide attacks by women globally in 2014 were in Nigeria.

In May 2015, it was reported that children had been used to perpetrate three-quarters of all suicide attacks in Nigeria since 2014. Many of the bombers had been brainwashed or coerced.

As the Nigerian military recaptures territory from Boko Haram, abducted women and girls are being recovered. Over and above the horrific trauma of sexual violence these girls experienced during their captivity, many are now facing rejection by their families and communities, because of their association with Boko Haram.

“You are a Boko Haram wife, don’t come near us!” one girl reported being told. Effective rehabilitation for these women and girls is vital, as they rebuild their lives.

Chibok abduction not isolated incident

Children have suffered disproportionately as a result of the conflict. The Chibok abduction was not an isolated incident.

In November 2014, 300 children were abducted from a school in Damasak, Borno, and are still missing.

A UNICEF report, released earlier this week, states that 1.3 million children have been displaced by the conflict across the Lake Chad Basin, almost a million of whom are in Nigeria. Similarly, Human Rights Watch have reported that 1 million children have lost access to education.

“The abducted Chibok girls have become a symbol for every girl that has gone missing at the hands of Boko Haram, and every girl who insists on practicing her right to education,” said Munir Safieldin, Deputy Humanitarian Coordinator for Nigeria.

More needs to be done by the Nigerian Government and the international community to keep them safe from the horrors other women and girls have endured. Safe schools are a good start, but safe roads and safe homes are also needed.

Credit: UNWomen.

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