UNICEF Scores Nigeria Low on Child Protection

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  • Urges terrorists, troops to abide by international standards on child rights

Kuni Tyessi in Abuja

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has stated that Nigeria has failed in the protection of children as far as 2018 is concerned, thereby mortgaging the future of tomorrow’s 455,000 who have so far been affected.

It added that armed groups, including Boko Haram factions have continued to target girls, who are raped, forced to become wives of fighters or used as human bombs.

UNICEF Director of Emergency Programmes, Manuel Fontaine, who disclosed this in a statement signed by UNICEF Communications Specialist, Eva Hinds, said in the Northeast Nigeria, as well as other neighbouring countries, at least 1,041 schools have been closed or non-functional due to violence, fear of attacks, or unrest, affecting nearly 445,000 children.

He said the future of millions of children living in countries affected by armed conflict are at risk, as warring parties continue to commit grave violations against children, and world leaders fail to hold perpetrators accountable.

Fontaine said: “Children living in conflict zones around the world have continued to suffer through extreme levels of violence over the past 12 months, and the world has continued to fail them.

“In North-east Nigeria, armed groups, including Boko Haram factions, continue to target girls, who are raped, forced to become wives of fighters or used as ‘human bombs’. In February, the group abducted 110 girls and one boy from a technical college in Dapchi, Yobe State. While most of the children have since been released, five girls died and one is still being held captive.

“For too long, parties to conflict have been committing atrocities with near-total impunity, and it is only getting worse. Much more can and must be done to protect and assist children.

“Today in Northeast Nigeria, the Lake region of Chad, extreme north of Cameroon and Diffa region of Niger, at least 1,041 schools are closed or non-functional due to violence, fear of attacks, or unrest, affecting nearly 445,000 children.”

He also added that 2019 marks the 30th anniversary of the landmark Convention on the Rights of the Child and the 70th anniversary of the Geneva Conventions; yet, more countries are embroiled in internal conflict than at any other time in the past three decades, with children being the most affected.

UNICEF therefore urged warring parties to abide by their obligations under international law to immediately end violations against children and the targeting of civilian infrastructure, including schools, hospitals and water infrastructure.

It also called on states with influence over parties to conflict to use that influence to protect children.

He said: “Much more needs to be done to prevent wars, and to end the many disastrous armed conflicts devastating children’s lives. Yet even as wars continue, we must never accept attacks against children.

“We must hold warring parties to their obligation to protect children. Otherwise, it is children, their families and their communities who will continue to suffer the devastating consequences, for now, and for years to come,” he said.