800,000 children forced to flee violence in Nigeria & region--UNICEF

A year after the abduction of more than 200 schoolgirls in Chibok, UNICEF focuses attention on devastating impact of conflict on children in new report

TORONTO, April 13, 2015 /CNW/ - An estimated 800,000 children have been forced to flee their homes as a result of the conflict in northeast Nigeria between Boko Haram, military forces and civilian self-defence groups – according to a new report from UNICEF.

Released one year after the abduction of more than 200 schoolgirls in Chibok, Missing Childhoods reveals that the number of children running for their lives within Nigeria, or crossing borders to Chad, Niger and Cameroon, has more than doubled in less than a year. 

"Children are bearing the brunt of this crisis, experiencing unimaginable violence and horrors no child should ever be subjected to," said David Morley, UNICEF Canada President and CEO. "Most disturbingly, children and young people have been very deliberately put in the crosshairs—with targeted attacks on schools, mass abductions and even reports of children being forced to carry bombs strapped to their bodies for public detonation. These grave violations of children's rights must be stopped immediately." 

"Children in Nigeria, Chad, Niger and Cameroon are among the world's most vulnerable. They are missing out on their childhoods, education, homes, families and healthcare," said Morley. "We must prioritize the protection of children caught in this conflict. UNICEF is working in all four countries, but our global humanitarian appeal is drastically underfunded to meet the critical needs of children."

Missing Childhoods Report
Missing Childhoods outlines how the conflict is exerting a heavy toll on children in Nigeria and across the region in an increasing number of ways:

  • Children are being used within the ranks of Boko Haram – as combatants, cooks, porters and look-outs.
  • Young women and girls are being subjected to forced marriage, forced labour and rape. 
  • Students and teachers have been deliberately targeted – with more than 300 schools damaged or destroyed and at least 196 teachers and 314 schoolchildren killed by the end of 2014.

"The abduction of more than 200 girls in Chibok is only one of endless tragedies being replicated on an epic scale across Nigeria and the region," says Manuel Fontaine, UNICEF Regional Director for West and Central Africa. "Scores of girls and boys have gone missing in Nigeria – abducted, recruited by armed groups, attacked, used as weapons, or forced to flee violence. They have the right to get their childhoods back."

UNICEF's response to the crisis
UNICEF has stepped up its humanitarian response to the crisis.   Over the past six months, UNICEF has provided over 60,000 children affected by the conflict in Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon and Chad with counseling and psychosocial support to help them ease the pain of their memories, reduce stress and cope with emotional distress.

UNICEF is also working with partners 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.

Faced with a severe funding shortfall, UNICEF is urging international donors to ramp up their financial support for relief efforts in Nigeria and the neighbouring countries. UNICEF has received only 15 per cent of the US$26.5 million required for its humanitarian response in Nigeria for 2015, and no more than 17 per cent for its overall humanitarian funding appeal for Cameroon, two per cent for Niger and one per cent for Chad.

Snapchat campaign to illustrate disappearing childhoods
To draw attention to the devastating impact of the conflict on children across the region UNICEF is using Snapchat – a social platform where messages disappear – to highlight the plight of the hundreds of thousands of children who are missing out on their childhoods as a result of the conflict. 

To tell the stories of the children who have fled the violence, UNICEF and leading Snapchat artists will share images based on drawings from children in Nigeria, Chad, Niger and Cameroon. The artwork reflects what children miss from home and the emotional wounds and suffering they have endured, including seeing their parents and siblings killed, tortured or abducted. 

The public will also be invited to share what they would miss most if they were forced from home – either on Snapchat, or on other social channels using the hashtag #bringbackourchildhood.

On Snapchat? Add @UNICEF and send them a snap showing what you would miss the most if you were forced to leave your home. Not on Snapchat? Send UNICEF a comment about what you would miss on Facebook (facebook.com/UNICEF-Canada), Twitter (@UNICEFLive) or Instagram (@unicefcanada) using #BringBackOurChildhood.

For more information visit UNICEF's campaign: bringbackourchildhood.tumblr.com

About UNICEF:
UNICEF has saved more children's lives than any other humanitarian organization. We work tirelessly to help children and their families, doing whatever it takes to ensure children survive. We provide children with healthcare and immunization, clean water, nutrition and food security, education, emergency relief and more.

UNICEF is supported entirely by voluntary donations and helps children regardless of race, religion or politics. As part of the UN, we are active in over 190 countries - more than any other organization. Our determination and our reach are unparalleled. Because nowhere is too far to go to help a child survive. For more information about UNICEF, please visit www.unicef.ca.

SOURCE UNICEF Canada

For further information: Tiffany Baggetta, UNICEF Canada, 416-482-6552 ext. 8892, 647-308-4806 (mobile), tbaggetta@unicef.ca

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http://www.unicef.ca

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