Many Nigerians, while may be a little anxious, are looking forward to the next general elections, scheduled for February 14, 2015.
However, this excitement is not shared by several thousand people who have been displaced, abducted, kidnapped, wounded, orphaned, sexually abused, or forced into marriages through gruesome attacks by Boko Haram, a militant group based in northeastern Nigeria, with additional operations in Chad, Niger, and Cameroon.
A lot of children in Nigeria, especially those in the northern and northeastern parts, live in constant fear due to Boko Haram’s terrorist activities, which include abduction and kidnapping of girls and women, use of teenage (and younger) girls as suicide bombers, and wanton killing and destruction.
You might recall the abduction of more than 200 schoolgirls in Chibok in April 2014, the attack on the UN headquarters in Abuja, and the recent devastating assaults on two Nigerian border towns—Baga and Doro Gowon in Borno State—where an estimated 2,000 were reportedly killed, according to human rights organizations. These are all part of the frightening activities of Boko Haram.
In one of their recent strikes, Boko Haram militants detonated two bombs attached to two adolescent girls in Yobe State, and another on a girl less than 12 years old in a crowded market in Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State. Boko Haram also recently attacked soldiers in neighboring Cameroon in a cross-border clash.
Currently, it is believed that Boko Haram controls about 20,000 square miles in Borno and Yobe States. The International Rescue Committee estimates that as many as 1,000 refugees a week are crossing the Nigeria-Niger border into Niger’s Diffa region. Four out of five of these refugees are women and girls, who feel helpless in the face of Boko Haram’s violent attacks. In addition, over 100 camps have been set up for internally displaced people across northern Nigeria, with some camps spilling over into Abuja, the country’s capital.
Beyond the widespread displacement, many children are killed or orphaned by these terrorist acts. Most children in the affected areas find themselves severely traumatized, while many are wounded or forced to live on the streets. Some of the attacks have been on schools in areas such as Gujba, Buni Yadi, and Potiskum. This has led to many schoolchildren being killed and most schools being destroyed or shut down.
According to UNESCO, Nigeria now has the world’s highest number of out-of-school children, due mainly to the terrorists’ activities. This is a major area of concern to The Global Fund for Children (GFC) and its partners in Nigeria. GFC is committed to supporting small community-based organizations that use innovative, culturally appropriate, and participatory methods to find sustainable solutions to local challenges.
GFC has been in touch with all of its current and former grantee partners working in areas affected by Boko Haram, to check on how they are doing, learn more about the situation, and provide assistance when necessary to help ensure that children and their families are safe and protected. We also support our grantee partners’ contributions to national and international efforts focused on finding a sustainable solution to ending these horrific terrorist acts.
Currently, all GFC grantee partners and the children they support are doing well, though reports indicate that some of them have family members, friends, and community members who have been severely affected by the situation. Below are some firsthand reports from GFC grantees in Nigeria.
The founder and executive director of Centre for Children’s Health Education, Orientation and Protection (CEE-HOPE), Betty Abah, stated that “currently a lot of children are suffering and many more are being killed or abducted, and the air of panic and even helplessness continues to rise across most parts of Nigeria, in tandem with the escalating violence. But we will not relent in our efforts and with the support of our partners such as GFC, in bringing help to these innocent and at-risk children of Nigeria.”
CEE-HOPE works in rural communities and urban slums to provide educational assistance, leadership training, and mentorship support to girls, especially victims of gender-based violence and sexual abuse, by moving the girls to safer environments and offering psychosocial and learning support.
When we reached out to Bo Sita MADE, a GFC grantee partner based in Jos, executive director Ven Lannap told us, “My team and I and the girls we support are fine, though we are extremely tense, awfully traumatized, and overwhelmed with fear. The most recent bomb explosion was close to our area of outreach activities and this has affected our confidence to freely move about to do our business. We have, therefore, reduced our outdoor activities for now but we are not going to stop. We are relentless in our work to support these girls and their families because we are strong and are committed to protecting these innocent girls.”
Bo Sita MADE is a female-led youth development organization that responds to the needs of human trafficking victims by removing them from dangerous environments such as brothels and supporting them holistically to help them live meaningful lives. The organization also implements public-awareness initiatives and works to protect those at risk of being trafficked.
Other GFC current and former partners that are working to protect children and youth in Nigeria are Friends of the Disabled, Girl Child Concerns, Kudirat Initiative for Democracy, Linking the Youth of Nigeria through Exchange, Media Concern Initiative, and Physicians for Social Justice. GFC is in constant touch with all its partners in Nigeria to continually receive updates on the situation in the country and to offer them needed technical guidance and support as they go through these distressing and challenging periods.
GFC completely and unequivocally condemns all activities that affect the growth, development, education, and general well-being of children and youth. We stand with our partner organizations in Nigeria and will continue to work with them and other stakeholders toward a peaceful and productive society. This will be achieved through active child-participation activities and the implementation of community-led, demand-driven initiatives that empower children and youth to be leaders in their communities.
We are also committed to strengthening the capacity of community-based organizations and sharpening their skills to protect children and youth from all activities that negatively impact their safety and well-being, including activities of terrorist groups such as Boko Haram.
“Yes, it is truly a trying time for our country and a painful time for children and youth in our land, but we are reassured by the fact that we are not alone in this fight and we will win.” These are the words of Nanre Nafziger-Mayegun, the founder and director of Linking the Youth of Nigeria through Exchange. This female-led organization fosters social responsibility among Nigerian children and youth through extended training in civic education and community service.
GFC is currently working with a number of strategic partners, and we need you to lend a hand so that we can win this battle and continue to provide support to innovative grassroots organizations that are protecting vulnerable children and youth in Nigeria and beyond.
– See more at: http://www.globalfundforchildren.org/effects-of-boko-haram-on-nigerias-children/#sthash.rqjAdohP.dpuf