800,000 children in Nigeria ‘running for their lives’, says Unicef
Fighting between Boko Haram, military forces and civilian self-defence groups in north-eastern Nigeria has forced around 800,000 children from their homes over the past year, according to the UN children’s agency, Unicef.
In a report marking the first anniversary of the Islamist group’s abduction of 276 schoolgirls from the Nigerian town of Chibok, Unicef says the number of children running for their lives in the country or crossing into neighbouring Chad, Niger and Cameroon has doubled in just under 12 months.
Despite steadily escalating its attacks in recent years, Boko Haram – whose name means “western education is forbidden” – achieved worldwide notoriety last April when it abducted the girls from their school in Borno state.
The girls, aged between 12 and 17, were snatched from their dormitories and loaded on to trucks. Although some managed to escape, others were paraded in a propaganda video, in which it was claimed they would be freed in return for the release of Boko Haram militants held by the Nigerian authorities.
President Goodluck Jonathan’s delay in reacting to the mass abduction – and his government’s failure to rescue them – is thought to have contributed to his defeat at the hands of Muhammadu Buhari in Nigeria’s recent election.
In a statement released on Tuesday Buhari said: “When my new administration takes office at the end of May we will do everything we can to defeat Boko Haram. We will act differently from the government we replace: we hear the anguish of our citizens and intend to respond accordingly.
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