Two years on from their abduction, the fate of 219 of the Chibok schoolgirls is still unknown, but their plight is sadly all too common in the conflict-affected communities of the North-East, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says.
In a statement made available to newsmen by OCHA,Nigeria said “Humanitarian agencies are concerned that two years have passed, and still the fate of the Chibok girls and the many, many other abductees is unknown,” said the Humanitarian Coordinator for
Nigeria, Fatma Samoura.
“At the hands of their captors they have suffered forced recruitment into the group, forced marriage, sexual slavery and rape, and have been used to carry bombs.”
“Between 2,000 – 7,000 women and girls are living in abduction and sex slavery,” said UNICEF Country Representative, Jean Gough.
Women and girls who have escaped Boko Haram have reported undergoing a systematic training programme while in captivity, to train them as bombers, according to UNICEF. 85% of the suicide attacks by women globally in 2014 were in Nigeria.
In May 2015 it was reported that children had been used to perpetrate three-quarters of all suicide attacks in Nigeria since 2014.
Many of the bombers had been brainwashed or coerced.
As the Nigerian military recaptures territory from Boko Haram, abducted women and girls are being recovered.
Over and above the horrific trauma of sexual violence these girls experienced during their captivity, many are now facing rejection by their families and communities, because of their association with Boko Haram.
“You are a Boko Haram wife, don’t come near us!” one
girl reported being told. Effective rehabilitation for these women and girls is vital, as they rebuild their lives.
Children have suffered disproportionately as a result of the North-East conflict.
The Chibok abduction was not a one off: in November 2014, 300 children were abducted from a school in Damasak, Borno, and are are still missing.
A UNICEF report released earlier this week states that 1.3 million children have been displaced by the conflict across the Lake Chad Basin, almost a million of whom are in Nigeria. Similarly, Human Rights Watch have reported that 1 million children have lost access to education.
“The abducted Chibok girls have become a symbol for every girl that has gone missing at the hands of Boko Haram, and every girl who insists on practicing her right to education,” attested the Deputy Humanitarian Coordinator for Nigeria, Munir Safieldin.
While the fate of the Chibok girls hangs in the balance, women and girls in 70% of vulnerable households in North-East Nigeria still face the risk of sexual and gender-based violence,
According to a report published in December by UNHCR, the Nigerian National Human Rights Commission, Nigerian Red Cross and the State Emergency Management Agencies,more needs to be done by the Nigerian Government and the international community to keep them safe from the horrors other women and girls have endured.
Safe schools are a good start, but safe roads are also needed, and safe homes.