The number of children used by Boko Haram as suicide bombers up tenfold over the past year, the United Nations humanitarian wing has reported, also warning that the group’s gunmen continue to carry out attacks on civilian and military targets despite the ramped up military operations in the Lake Chad Basin region.
According to an update issued late last week by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), security remains volatile in many of the region’s conflict-affected areas, complicating aid access to those in need. Some three million people are already food insecure. Many more are expected to face hunger as the lean season progresses.
Already in certain areas, the lean season has begun earlier than usual, while in others thousands of families are in need of immediate assistance. Given the onset of the lean season and rainy season, nutrition outcomes are expected to worsen and food prices will increase as roads become impassable.
OCHA estimates that some 486,000 children in Borno and 242,000 children in Yobe in north-eastern Nigeria are suffering from Global Acute Malnutrition. Moreover, some 73,000 children under two years of age in these communities need to urgently receive ready-to-use supplementary specialized nutritious foods. Food supplements for 27,000 pregnant and lactating mothers are also recommended.
Without interventions an estimated 67,000 children aged six- to 59 months with severe acute malnutrition are likely to die in Borno and Yobe states in 2016. This translates to 184 deaths every day, warns the report.
OCHA went on to report that 44 children were involved in suicide bombings in 2015, up from four the previous year. More than 75 per cent of them are girls, according to the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF). Between January 2014 and February 2016, Cameroon recorded the highest number of suicide attacks involving children at 21, followed by Nigeria with 17 and Chad with two. Over the past two years, nearly one in five suicide bombers was a child, OCHA adds.
In Niger, Boko Haram attacks have increased since January, said OCHA. Intensified military offensives from the regional multinational force and troops from the Lake Chad Basin countries have forced the gunmen to retreat to the border areas between Niger and Nigeria where they attack villages that have little or no military presence.
Finally, OCHA noted that only 10 per cent of the $535 million required to assist the affected populations across the region has been received.