The child victims of Boko Haram

Every act of terror is heartbreaking, but the latest suicide bombings in Northern Nigeria have been extraordinarily tragic. In this latest act of terror, four girls and one boy, reportedly between the ages of 9-12 years old, were sent into the town of Maidguri in the state of Borno to act as detonators for bombs that were intended to kill civilians.

All five children were killed by the resulting blasts, as well as ten other civilians. Over thirty-five people were also injured in the attack, which took place on October 2nd, 2015. The bombs were set off in a mosque during an evening prayer session, which was similar to the attacks that took place in Potiskum on July 3rd when a church was targeted by a suicide bomber. However, this is not the first time that Maidguri has been targeted by the insurgent group. For instance, on August 11th more than 50 civilians were killed in Maidguri in a bomb attack.

This was not the first instance of Boko Haram using children in suicide bombings. For example, on June 22nd Maidguri was the site of another suicide bombing carried out by a child and at least 20 people were killed. Children were also used in multiple suicide bombings in July of this year, as well as many other attacks over the last six years since the insurgent group emerged. Following the previous bombings, news sites had speculated that these child bombers were victims who had been abducted by the group. With that said, the willingness to employ, and the frequency with which Boko Haram uses child suicide bombers is both disturbing and tragic.

The children of Nigeria and neighbouring regions are consistently victimized by this terrorist organization, with the children’s charity UNICEF describing the situation as a ‘ humanitarian crisis.’ In its document ‘Missing Childhoods: The Impact of Armed Conflict on Children in Nigeria and Beyond,’ UNICEF described the displacement of over 800,000 children, and the sexual abuse and violence children by Boko Haram since its insurgence. The conflict within Nigeria has directly affected these children’s access to education, healthcare, and security as they are often victimized by Boko Haram, as they face abduction and forced participation in suicide bombings.

Many people will remember that 276 schoolgirls were abducted from Chibok in April 2014 by the terrorist group, Boko Haram. More than 200 of these children have not been recovered, which means that they either continue to be subject to the abuse and militarization of the group or have already been killed.

The impact on the lives of children, both those in Boko Haram’s captivity and those affected by Boko Haram’s presence in their home regions, is a growing epidemic that requires immediate intervention. Charities, like UNICEF, are working to deliver critical resources on the ground in Nigeria, such as vital vaccinations and clean drinking water. Other organizations, such as the Kano State Special Boarding Primary School are also working to help the child victims, which has opened its doors to children who have become orphans due to Boko Haram’s attacks.

As the conflict in Nigeria and neighbouring regions continues between the state and Boko Haram, it is important that civilian victims of Boko Haram are not forgotten. It is crucial that initiatives to send practical aid are supported and funded so that innocent victims can lead lives that allow them access to basic human rights and primary resources.