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OFFICE OF THE SECRETARY TO THE GOVERNMENT OF THE FEDERATION

UNICEF REINTEGRATES 9,000 CHILDREN ASSOCIATED WITH ARMED GROUPS     

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UNICEF REINTEGRATES 9,000 CHILDREN ASSOCIATED WITH ARMED GROUPS                                                                  21-02-24

By Sadiq Aminu                                                         The United Nations Children Education Fund UNICEF says it has supported the social and economic reintegration of more than nine thousand children associated with armed groups since 2017 across the county.

UNICEF Chief of Borno Field Office, Phuong  Nguyen, stated this at an event to  commemorate the 2024 International Day Against the Use of Child Soldiers (Red Hand Day) in Maiduguri, the Borno State capital.

She explained that the support structures include family tracing, safe return to their communities, psychosocial support, vocational training and informal apprenticeships.

Nguyen however decried that many more children are still trapped in armed groups as child soldiers, while others face consistent discrimination after disengagement from armed fighters.

The UNICEF Chief disclosed that the Country Task Force on Monitoring and Reporting (CTFMR) has verified the recruitment and use of 685 children in 2023 as against the recruitment and use of 136 children verified by in 2022, describing the situation as worrisome.

“When recruited by non-state armed groups, children are mainly used for strategic and military purposes: planting bombs, digging trenches, pillaging villages, killing enemy forces, as wives to commanders, manning checkpoints and as porters” Nguyen said.

Phoung Nguyen said since the signing of the Hand over Protocol in 2022, one hundred and forty one children have been released from administrative custody by Nigerian security agencies to the Borno State Ministry of Women Affairs Social Development.

Borno State Commissioner of Women Affairs and Social Development, Hajiya Zuwaira Gambo, said the Red Hand Day observed every 12 February is a call – to – action to bring an end to child soldiers, symbolising stakeholders unwavering commitment to sustain the ending of the recruitment and use of child soldiers.

The Commissioner, said in collaboration with the UNICEF and other key stakeholders, the Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development, advocated for the release of children in administrative custody for their alleged association with the non- state armed groups.

“Between 2016 to 2023, more than 2,528 children ( 888 girls, 1,640 boys ) were released from administrative custody and provided with interim care services and community- based reintegration support” Zuwaira said.

The Commissioner called on the United Nations and the international community to continue its political, technical, and financial support to the sustainable reintegration of all children released from non-state armed groups.

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