The UNICEF, in a release on Wednesday, expressed worry that 27 children had been sent on suicide missions in 2017 alone, making the year the worst under review.
The UNICEF Regional Director for West and Central Africa, Marie-Pierre Poirier, said, “In the first three months of 2017, the number of children used in bomb attacks is nearly the same as the whole of last year. This is the worst possible use of children in conflict. These children are victims, not perpetrators. Forcing or deceiving them into committing such horrific acts is reprehensible.”
The UNICEF release added that the Boko Haram crisis had led to the displacement of more than 1.3 million children in the four countries, saying the parties to the conflict must find drastic solutions.
The agency noted that children should be moved from military environments to civilian settlements so as to minimise their vulnerability.
The statement reads in part: “So far, 117 children have been used to carry out bomb attacks in public places across Nigeria, Chad, Niger and Cameroon since 2014.
“We had four in 2014, 56 in 2015, 30 in 2016 and 27 only in the first three months of 2017.
“Girls have been used in the vast majority of these attacks. As a consequence, girls, boys and even infants have been viewed with increasing fear at markets and checkpoints, where they are thought to carry explosives.
“The alarming increase reflects the tactic of the insurgents. We call on parties to the conflict to end grave violations against children by Boko Haram and move children from military to civilian environment as quickly as possible.
“Children who have been taken into custody solely for their alleged or actual association to armed groups should be immediately handed over to civilian authorities for reintegration and support.”