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Tests, trauma counselling for former Boko Haram hostages


boko haram womenHundreds of women and children rescued from Boko Haram are undergoing medical tests and treatment as they recover in camps in northeast Nigeria, the country’s main relief agency said on Monday.

The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) said those not receiving treatment in hospital would receive “all the support they require” as they come to terms with their ordeal.

A total of 275 women and children were brought to a camp in the Adamawa state capital, Yola, at the weekend, following a military operation to free them in Boko Haram’s Sambisa Forest stronghold.

“We are working out the long-term support they need,” NEMA spokesman Manzo Ezekiel told AFP. “They need trauma management so they’re not treated as outcasts when they go back to society.”

Two women described how militant fighters tried to force them into marrying rebels after they were captured and how their escape turned to tragedy as at least three women were killed by landmines.

Others were crushed by tanks as they hid in the undergrowth of the dense forest to avoid shelling and firing between the soldiers and Boko Haram.

Ezekiel said the authorities were keen to avoid the women being stigmatised in religiously conservative northern Nigeria, with reports Boko Haram may have kept some as sex slaves.

“We are trying our best to see if they can be properly rehabilitated,” he said, adding medical tests would not only check for conditions such as malaria but sexually transmitted diseases.

Turai Kadir, who helps in the internally displaced people camps in the city, said the former hostages were “not in great condition”. “All of them are traumatised,” she added.

“They’re hungry. They’re sick. One woman told me she was picked up from a market where she was selling with her husband. They (Boko Haram) took them to the bush and killed her husband.

“They said they were going to get her married to their master. There’s nothing more traumatic than that.”

Some 700 women and children have been freed in recent days from the Sambisa Forest, which the military says is the last remaining Boko Haram stronghold.

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