UNICEF said on Monday that no fewer than 800,000 children have fled their homes in north-eastern Nigeria because of the activities Boko Haram insurgents.
UNICEF’s regional director for West and Central Africa, Manuel Fontaine, told newsmen in Berlin that the number of child refugees has over doubled in 2014.
Fontaine said the children fled to Chad, Niger and Cameroon and within Nigeria.
“Scores of girls and boys have gone missing in Nigeria – abducted, recruited by armed groups, attacked, used as weapons or forced to flee violence,’’ the UN children’s agency said.
The agency’s report was released a year after the Boko Haram’s kidnapping of 276 girls from their school in the north-eastern city of Chibok, inciting worldwide condemnation.
According to Fontaine, over 200 of the girls remain missing, adding that the abductions were only one of numerous tragedies being replicated on an epic scale across Nigeria and the region.
Boko Haram, which seeks to impose the strictest application of Islamist law, has killed about 14,000 people in northern Nigeria since 2009.
According to UNICEF, the group uses children as fighters, cooks, porters and scouts, rapes girls and women, forces them into marriage and sexually enslaves them.
“The children fleeing the violence are often traumatised, lose contact with their families and are cut off from education and health care.
Boko Haram also targets schoolchildren and teachers, damaging or destroying over 300 schools and killing no fewer than 196 teachers and 314 schoolchildren through the end of 2014,’’ UNICEF said.