•  3 million children in need of emergency education support

By Michael Olugbode in Maiduguri

The United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) yesterday said the humanitarian crisis brought on the North-east by the protracted Boko Haram insurgency was dire, leaving three million children in need of emergency education support.

 Speaking to journalists in Maiduguri after assessment tour of Borno State, the state most hit by the crisis, the Deputy Director of UNICEF, Justin Forsyth said the humanitarian crisis was beyond UNICEF and needed the collaboration of all including governments and international aids agencies. 

He lamented that that 57 per cent of schools in Borno alone are closed as a result of the crisis, even as the new school year had begun. 

He decried that across the North-east, over 2,295 teachers had been killed and 19,000 others displaced since the crisis erupted over six years ago. 

Forsyth said almost 1,400 schools were destroyed in the crisis with majority still unable to open because of extensive damage or because they are in areas that remain unsafe. 

He said: “Children in North-east Nigeria are living through so much horror. In addition to devastating malnutrition, violence and an outbreak of cholera, the attacks on schools is in danger of creating a lost generation of children, threatening their and the country’s future.” 

Forsyth said some children living in camps for the displaced in Borno State are actually benefiting from education for the first time in their lives. 

He said in Muna Garage Camp on the outskirts of Maiduguri, for example, an estimated 90 per cent of students were enrolled in schools for the first time.

 He revealed that in the three most-affected states of northeast Nigeria, UNICEF and partners had enrolled nearly 750,000 children in school this year, and have established 350 temporary learning spaces and distributed almost 94,000 packs of learning material that would help children get education. 

He said UNICEF was also working with partners to rehabilitate schools and classrooms and train teachers, to build a stronger education system for the future. 

Forsyth equally lamented that the Boko Haram insurgents had forced many children into marriages and raped many girls severally. 

He said while in Banki, a Borno border town with Cameroon, he met nine girls within the ages of 11 and 17 that were constantly raped by insurgents who had kidnapped them. 

While in Maiduguri, Forsyth met with families and children affected by the conflict who told him their fear living under Boko Haram and the dire conditions they live in. 

UNICEF complained that life-saving emergency programmes in North-east remain underfunded, with only three months left in the year, as 40 per cent funding gap in its need for 2017 had been recorded.

It said that to date, nearly a million children had been displaced by the crisis and 450,000 children under the age of five are expected to suffer from severe acute malnutrition this year. 

The organisation lamented that the use of children as human bombs numbering close to 100 this year alone so far, has sown a climate of mistrust among communities in the North-east, and cholera outbreak had affected more than 3,900 people, including over 2,450 children.

 Army kills two insurgents in Lake Chad 

Also yesterday, the Army in a statement by its Deputy Director, Public Relations, in charge of the 8 Task Force, Col. Timothy Atingha said

troops had continued to deny the remnants of Boko Haram terrorists in the Lake Chad area freedom of action and access to logistics within the division’s area of responsibility.  

Atingha said the troops responding to a distress call yesterday, intercepted terrorists mounted on 14 horses in Malamti village, Guzamala Local Government Area of Borno State.  

“In the ensuing fire fight, gallant troops killed two terrorists and recovered two AK 47 riffles, three magazines, 26 rounds of 7.26 ammunition and one hand grenade.  

“Other items also recovered include 18 mobile phones, three mini solar panels, soap and detergents, bundles of assorted clothes and eight horses. Unfortunately, two soldiers were wounded during the engagement and are currently receiving medical attention,” Atingha said. 

He revealed that other terrorists who fled the fire fight were being pursued in the exploitation which followed the engagement.