Friday, 17 April 2015

Photos: Abducted, abused and exposed to shocking violence: Children's suffering at the hands of Boko Haram revealed... a year after the world asked them to #BringBackOurGirls

This time last year the world was shocked by the abduction of 276 Nigerian schoolgirls who were kidnapped from their school by Boko Haram militants.
A-listers from Michelle Obama to Angelina Jolie lent their support to the #bringbackourgirlscampaign in the hope the children could be saved.
But Unicef have revealed that a year later, more than 200 of these girls remain in captivity while scores of other children have gone missing since.
Rose Zeeharrah, right, with her children at a camp for internally displaced persons, in Yola, Adamawa, where the family fled after a Boko Haram rebel group attacked their village and killed her husband
Evelyn was lucky to escape with her and her daughter Rose when saw a  Boko Haram rebel group entered their village killing people and kidnapping girls
20-month-old Stephanie Samson cries while being weighed in the Kwanaya refugee camp. She weighs six kilos but should weigh nine. She and her mother survived in the mountains on pumpkin seeds and stream water for six weeks after they fled their home when Boko Haram attacked

Children as young as four are being used within the ranks of Boko Haram – as cooks, porters and look-outs. Those are the lucky ones, others are trained to fight, forced to be suicide bombers or sold as sex slaves.
According to accounts by escapees, young women and girls who have been abducted have been subjected to forced marriage, forcible religious conversion from Christianity to Islam, physical and psychological abuse and forced labour and rape.
Thanks to the violent conflict in the region, 1.2m people have been forced to flee their home, displaced inside Nigeria or crossing into neighbouring Cameroon, Chad and Niger.
Many have had to run away in fear as their homes and villages were attacked by Boko Haram militants, causing a large number of children to be separated from their parents amidst the violent chaos.
One of them is 15-year-old Ahmid who is the subject of one of Unicef's latest campaign films.

It's been a year since the high profile #bringbackourgirls campaign, supported by Michelle Obama, but the suffering continues for many
Girls who have been exposed to abuse and violence and forced from their homes are getting access to an education thanks to Unicef supported projects in Bauchi State, pictured

He fled his home in Nigeria during a horrific Boko Haram attack and travelled for week without his family across Lake Chad.
He said: 'I ran away by myself as they were cutting people's throats as if they were rams.

'We had to eat grass from the lake. I worried most about hunger there was nothing to eat and nowhere to sleep. I worry about my parents.'
Ahmind has been supported at a Unicef Centre where children are encouraged to express their grief through art and given access to education.
He said: 'It was a policeman who urged me to go to school. At first I couldn't be bothered because I was thinking about my parents. 

'I have nobody here but he told me to go to school. He said one day I will see my parents again if they are still alive. So now I go to school everyday.'
Mohammed Tijani, a social worker, left, speaks with Shatumi Samon, 17, in the Gire 2 camp for internally displaced people, near Yola, the capital of Adamawa

Ten-year-old Sani was also witness to horrific scenes when he was forced to flee his home.
In another video, he recalls: 'We were at the Koranic school when we first heard the gunfire. The teacher told us that Boko Haram was here and he told us to run to the river. So we run away. 

'Our teacher started to cross the river and then he stopped to make sure that we could also cross. But we could not cross, it was too deep. 
'Then a man came on a motorcycle. He said he wasn't from Boko Haram and he was looking for help. He asked us to come with him to look for food. When we got out of the water, he took out his gun and pointed at us saying he was Boko Haram. Then he took us.'

Sani was freed thanks to his father paying for him to be released and his family are now at a Unicef run refugee camp in outside Diffa city in the Southeast of Niger.
He remains psychologically scarred by his experienced, which he has been encouraged to express through art. 

Pupils in a school at a refugee camp for people displaced by the Boko Haram conflict, many of the children at such camps have been separated from their parents
Unicef and COOPI are working hand in hands with the Government of Niger to find a way to reach all children in need of help and give them support and education

'I did this drawing to show what Boko Haram did to us,' he said describing one of his pictures. 'They came, shot people and cut the throat of others. Here it's a member of Boko Haram burning a vehicle. Here it’s someone who had his throat cut. There burnt cars and here a burnt phone antenna.'

Like Sani, many children saw terrible things during the attacks. While it is often hard to talk about the days they left their home to run for their life, drawing is an easier way to address what took place.
Children participate in group activities to help them express themselves. They can also channel their trauma through song, and games. These recreational events also give them a sense of normalcy during this tenuous time.

Yagana, 10, pictured drawing about her experience when Boko Haram attacked her village
Children at Unicef supported refugee camps are urged to express themselves through art to help them deal with the trauma they have been through
This drawing by Zanna, a 13-year-old child refugee, reveals the shocking violence she has witnessed
Another drawing by Fatima, 15, shows how she's seen people shot and killed
Child refugee Maryam's picture shows people being shot and families like hers fleeing the violence

This much needed child protection programme was established and implemented in eight locations in Diffa region: Bosso, Tam, Krikri, Chéri, Kilakam, Nguelkolo, Kabelewa, and Adjiri.
Unicef and COOPI are working hand in hands with the Government of Niger to find a way to reach all children in need of help.

Many have seen parents, siblings, relatives or neighbours killed, tortured or abducted. Many have had to run for their lives and walk for days to reach safety. Others have been exposed to extreme violence and abuse.

'Some children are very shy,' said Marzia Vigliaroni from COOPI, a Unicef partner in charge of managing a child-friendly space in Diffa. 'They won’t speak or participate in our activities; they need psycho-social support. 

Unicef wants to free children from abuse and fighting so they can have the happy childhood they deserve

'We ask them to make drawings of their experience during the attack. They draw people with slit throats and people drowning in the river. This shows us how deeply affected children are. We work with them individually; we try to help them forget the traumatizing events they have experienced and continue their lives like other children and forget what they had to live through.'

As well as helping children through the refugee camps, the charity are also working to return abducted children to their families and demobilise children involved in fighting.

To help protect children in danger you can give now to Unicef's work for children caught up in emergencies: 

Source- The Daily Mail

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