Three United Nations human rights experts today called on the Government of Nigeria to assist in the rehabilitation and reintegration of women and children who escaped or were liberated from Boko Haram captivity.
“As the region transits from relief to recovery, it is important to ensure that rehabilitation and reintegration measures are grounded in human rights norms and take into consideration the impact of the regional conflict on women and children,” said the UN Special Rapporteurs on sale of children, Maud de Boer-Buquicchio; on contemporary forms of slavery, Urmila Bhoola; and on right to health, Dainius Puras, at the end of an official visit to Nigeria.
“These measures must aim to fundamentally transform society for the better while addressing the immediate needs of women and girls,” the experts stressed. “They must also address root causes especially discrimination, deprivation, exclusion and gender inequality.”
The Special Rapporteurs commended the initiatives taken so far by the Government, but cautioned that “gaps remain in implementing policies and enforcing laws in a manner that makes a real difference in the lives of all, especially women and children affected by the insecurity and violence in the Northeast.”
Noting the progress made in the management of internally displaced persons (IDPs) camps, they called for further efforts to ensure that reintegration and rehabilitation programmes leave no one behind, wherever they may have settled. “In particular, health systems must be strengthened, so as to meet the physical and mental health needs of both the displaced and the host communities,” the experts stated.
“During our visits to camps in Maiduguri, we witnessed first-hand the health and social impacts of the conflict. We met with women and girls who reported limited access to services including adequate nutritious food, psychosocial support, education, and health including sexual and reproductive services,” they said.
The Special Rapporteurs called on the Government and international partners to provide skills development and livelihood opportunities in order to ensure economic empowerment and secure access to decent work. “This will go a long way in ensuring IDPs have the necessary skills and the opportunities to re-build their lives as well as integrate in their former or new communities,” they noted.
“A protection gap is evident especially in the service delivery and access to justice for women and girls victims of Boko Haram,” the experts stated. “Real and concerted efforts are needed at the Federal and State levels to secure accountability and address impunity for sexual violence, including child and forced marriage.”
“We would also welcome more information, at an appropriate time and bearing in mind security considerations, on the steps taken to locate and rescue all victims of abduction by Boko Haram, in particular the schoolgirls from Chibok,” they said.
Meanwhile, they stressed the urgent and pressing need for effective measures to address stigma, ostracism and rejection of women and children associated with Boko Haram by their families and communities. “Efforts at community cohesion, peacebuilding and reconciliation must start now and accelerate as people begin to return from displacement,” they warned.
The Special Rapporteurs also noted that “the current comprehensive approach to addressing challenges in the North East provides a good opportunity not only to reintegrate women and children affected by Boko Haram but also to strengthen the health and educational sectors which are crucial for peace, security and sustainable development in Nigeria.”
During their five-day official visit to Nigeria, the human rights experts met with representatives from various Ministries, the Parliament and other public bodies, as well as civil society and relevant UN agencies. They also visited IDP camps and the De-radicalization Programme, and met with some of the parents of the missing Chibok girls.
The Special Rapporteurs will present a report on this visit to the UN Human Rights Council in the course of 2016.
Independent experts or special rapporteurs are appointed by the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a country situation or a specific human rights theme. The positions are honorary and the experts are not UN staff, nor are they paid for their work.