The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has expressed concern the increased usage of children as suicide bombers in Nigeria in the last year.
According to the group, Nigerian children living in the northern part of the country bear the highest burden of violence even and it expressed concern that the increasing use of children as suicide bombers could lead to children being perceived as potential threats in the future.
Jean Gough, who is UNICEF's Representative in Nigeria said the conflict in the Northern part of the country has severely constrained full scale provision of health services thereby threatening their right to survival.
He added that the increase in the numbers of suicide bombings is an alarming and appalling trend in the perpetration of violence against children.
"More children and women have been used as suicide bombers in Northeast Nigeria in the first five months of this year than during the whole of last year, according to reports collated by UNICEF. In 2014, 26 suicide attacks were recorded compared to 27 attacks as of May 2015. In at least three-quarters of these incidents, children and women were reportedly used to carry out the attacks. Girls and women have been used to detonate bombs or explosives belts at crowded locations, such as market places and bus stations."
He added that 9 suicide incidents involved female children aged between approximately 7 and 17 years, further stating that the children were used intentionally by adults in the most horrific way.
UNICEF further estimated that an estimated 743,000 children have been uprooted by the conflict in the 3 most affected states in Nigeria; the number of unaccompanied and separated children could be as high as 10,000.
To this end, the group expressed concern that the increasing use of children as suicide bombers could lead to children being perceived as potential threats.
This could then put all children associated with armed groups at risk of retaliation and would impede their rehabilitation and reintegration in the community.
With over 35,000 children haven been reached with psychosocial support to cope with the acute stress suffered on account of the conflict, UNICEF and its partners stated that they are working with national authorities to reduce children’s vulnerability by identifying children who are without parents or relatives, and providing them with appropriate care.