In Nigeria and neighbouring countries, data verified by the United Nations and its partners show that nearly 2,000 children were recruited by Boko Haram in 2016 alone.
The children were recruited to fight in a war that has lasted over seven years in the north east states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe, Doune Porter, the spokesperson of the UN body for children, UNICEF, said.
Since 2009, Boko Haram insurgents have waged a war against western education in the region leading to the death of several thousands of people and according to the Kano state government, nearly 100,000 people.
On February 13, Kashim Shettima, governor of Borno state, in what has been the highest casualty figure of the crisis presented by the government, said “the Boko Haram insurgency has led to the deaths of almost 100,000 persons going by the estimates of our community leaders over the years”.
“Two million, one hundred and fourteen thousand (2,114,000) persons have become internally displaced as at December of 2016, with five hundred and thirty seven thousand, eight hundred and fifteen (537,815) in separate camps; 158,201 are at official camps that consists of six centres with two transit camps at Muna and Customs House, both in Maiduguri.”
UNICEF said it has released some of the child soldiers from the hold of armed groups like Boko Haram in several war torn countries including Yemen, Syria and South Sudan.
“At least 65,000 children have been released from armed forces and armed groups in the past 10 years,” the organisation said as it marks the 10th year anniversary of the Paris commitments to end the use of children in conflict.
“Ten years ago the world made a commitment to the children of war and matched it with action – action that has helped give 65,000 children a new chance for a better life,” said Anthony Lake, UNICEF executive director.
“But today’s meeting is not only about looking back at what has been accomplished — but looking forward to the work that remains to be done to support the children of war.”
Exact data on the number of children used and recruited in armed conflict are difficult to confirm because of the unlawful nature of child recruitment.
However, UNICEF estimates that tens of thousands of boys and girls under the age of 18 are used in conflicts worldwide.
“The Paris International Ministerial Conference on the Protection of Children in Armed Conflicts will look at ways to build on this momentum.
“These include calling for the unconditional release of all children, without exception, and putting an end to child recruitment; increased resources to help reintegrate and educate children who have been released; and urgent action to protect internally displaced children, child refugees and migrants.”