About in five attacks carried out by Boko Haram uses children as suicide bombers, UNICEF has found.
It reported the number of children involved in suicide attacks in Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad and Niger has risen sharply over the past year, from 4 in 2014 to 44 in 2015, and more than 75 percent of the children involved in the attacks are girls.
The report also assesses the impact conflict has had on children in the four countries affected by Boko Haram. It finds nearly 1.3 million children have been displaced, about 1,800 schools are closed – either damaged, looted, burned down or used as shelter by displaced people, while over 5,000 children were reported unaccompanied/separated from their parents.
The UNICEF report comes as the April 14, two years anniversary of the abduction of 276 schoolgirls in Chibok approaches.
Called Beyond Chibok, the report finds that between January 2014 and February 2016, Cameroon recorded the highest number of suicide attacks involving children (21), followed by Nigeria (17) and Chad (2).
And it was last year that suicide bombing attacks in general spread beyond Nigeria’s borders.
The frequency of all suicide bombings increased from 32 in 2014 to 151 last year. In 2015, 89 of these attacks were carried out in Nigeria, 39 in Cameroon, 16 in Chad and 7 in Niger.
UNICEF said the use of children who may have been coerced into carrying bombs has created an atmosphere of fear and suspicion that has devastating consequences for girls who have survived captivity and sexual violence by Boko Haram in North East Nigeria.
The children who escaped or were released by armed groups are often seen as potential security threats, the report showed, while those born as a result of sexual violence also encounter stigma and discrimination in their communities.