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Civilian JTF releases 894 children in Maiduguri, says UNICEF

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The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), yesterday, said no fewer than 894 children, including 106 girls, have been released from the ranks of the Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF) in Maiduguri.

UNICEF Country Representative, Mohamed Fall, who disclosed this in a statement issued in Abuja, said the figure amounted to 1, 700 as the number of children released from 2017 till date.

Fall, who also the Co-Chair of UN Country Task Force on Monitoring and Reporting on Grave Child Rights Violations (CTFMR), described the efforts as part of the organisation’s commitment to end and prevent the recruitment and use of children.

Fall added: “Any commitment for children that is matched with action is a step in the right direction for the protection of children’s rights and must be recognised and encouraged.

“Children of northeast Nigeria have borne the brunt of this conflict; they have been used by armed groups in combatant and non-combatant roles and witnessed death, killing and violence.

“This participation in the conflict has had serious implications for their physical and emotional well-being.”

Fall said that since September 2017, when the CJTF signed an action plan committing to put measures in place to end and prevent recruitment and use of children, 1,727 children and young people had been released, and there has been no new recruitment of children by the CJTF since then.

“The children and young people released today will benefit from reintegration programmes to help them return to civilian life; seize new opportunities for their own development and contribute to bringing lasting peace in Nigeria as productive citizens of their country.

Fall said without this support, many of the children released from armed groups struggle to fit into civilian life, as most of them are not educated and have no vocational skills.

“In the ongoing armed conflict in the Northeast of Nigeria, over 3,500 children were recruited and used by non-state armed groups, between 2013 and 2017. Others have been abducted, maimed, raped and killed.

“We cannot give up the fight for the children, as long as children are still affected by the fighting. We will continue until there is no child left in the ranks of all armed groups in Nigeria,” he said.

The UNICEF representative assured that the organisation would continue to work closely with state authorities and partners to support the implementation of reintegration programmes for all children released from armed groups, as well as others affected by the ongoing conflict.

He identified the gender and age-appropriate community-based reintegration support interventions to include an initial assessment of their well-being, psycho-social support, education, vocational training, informal apprenticeships and opportunities to improve livelihoods.

Meanwhile, the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) of the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) has said a record 41.3 million people are displaced inside their own countries because of conflict and violence, including Nigeria.


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