VISITING Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Leila Zerrougui, has called for urgent steps to protect children from Boko Haram and what she described as ‘relentless violence’.
Zerrougui, who is in Nigeria on a week-long fact-finding mission, lamented how children growing up in Nigeria’s North East region were in desperate need of protection from intense violence.
Boko Haram has been identified by the Secretary-General as a party to conflict that kills and maims children and attacks schools and hospitals.
In a statement yesterday, the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) noted that Zerrougui used the opportunity of the visit to assess the conflict’s impact on children.
The release noted: “She met the country’s federal authorities, the authorities of Adamawa State, the United Nations, the diplomatic community, civil society and other partners to galvanise efforts to gather and verify information on grave violations committed against children. This will help the government and its partners provide better protection for children and promote accountability.
“In Yola, the Special Representative met with displaced people from the conflict-affected areas, including children and women.”
On her first hand assessment of the situation, Zerrougui said: “I witnessed people’s shock and disbelief at the devastation suffered by their communities. I saw trauma in children’s eyes. The scale of the suffering is way beyond what I anticipated to find. The people I met demand and deserve urgent protection.”
She added: “In northern Nigeria, over 900, 000 people, many of them women and children, have fled their homes. More than 300 schools have been severely damaged or destroyed, hundreds of children have been killed, injured or abducted from their homes and schools.”