Two years after the abduction of the Chibok schoolgirls in Nigeria, we still have no news of the whereabouts of the 219 girls remaining in captivity.
The advocacy movement, BringBackOurGirls.ng, has demanded not only the rescue of the girls, but also for the government to be accountable to Nigerians on security issues- particularly in the northeast. The response within Nigeria and around the world was incredible, with the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls alone tweeted more than 6.1 million times.
But the horrific Chibok girls’ abduction is just the tip of the iceberg. Thousands of other children have disappeared in Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria. A year ago, Boko Haram militants kidnapped some 400 women and schoolchildren in Damasak in Nigeria—the largest ever documented abduction of schoolchildren that has gone largely unnoticed.
Amnesty International estimated that Boko Haram has kidnapped more than 2,000 children forced many into combat or sex slavery. According to UNICEF, over 1.3 million children have been uprooted by the violence, an increase by more than 60 percent since the abduction. 2.3 million people displaced since May 2013.
More than 1,800 schools have been closed, damaged, looted, set on fire, or used to shelter displaced persons. In Boko Haram-affected areas across Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria, the estimated number of children with severe acute malnutrition increased from 149,000 to 195,000 between January 2014 and January 2016.
And while the World’s leaders focus on Syria, in northeast Nigeria, 9 out of 10 of displaced families are sheltered by some of the world’s poorest communities, placing additional strain on already limited resources.
The overall result is that an entire generation of children in the northeast is being robbed of their right to education, an essential ingredient for their future and for the development of the northeast region, which for years has lagged behind that of other parts of the country.
So what can we do about it?
This year, UNICEF needs US$ 97 million to provide lifesaving assistance to families affected by Boko Haram violence across Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Cameroon. But only $11 million have been received so far.
Without urgent action to address the lack of access to education occasioned by the Boko Haram attacks, the lives of these children could become locked into cycles of poverty that last for generations.
UNICEF’s #BringBackOurChildhood campaign is calling for the protection, health and education of ALL these children missing out on their childhoods.
Show your support using the hashtag #bringbackourchildhood, then stand up for women and girls everywhere by telling world leaders that Poverty is Sexist.