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Senior UN officials call for return of over 270 abducted Nigerian girls

Updated: 2016-04-15 11:18

UNITED NATIONS - The UN humanitarian coordinator for Nigeria, Fatma Samoura, and the executive director of the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), Babatunde Osotimehin, on Thursday issued statements to call for the return of more than 270 Nigerian girls who were abducted two years ago.

The statements came one day before the second anniversary of the abduction of these girls from the northeastern Nigerian town of Chibok.

"In northeastern Nigeria, UNFPA has been providing medical and psycho-social support to more than 27,000 gender-based violence survivors and their family members to deal with the trauma of captivity," the deputy UN spokesman, Farhan Haq, said at a daily news briefing here.

The UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) is also working with communities and families in Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon and Niger to fight stigma against survivors of sexual violence and to build a protective environment for former abductees, he said.

"Together with partners, UNICEF provides safe water and life-saving health services; helps to restore access to education by creating temporary learning spaces; and delivers therapeutic treatment to malnourished children," Haq said. "UNICEF also provides psychosocial support to children to help them cope with emotional distress."

The plight of 219 Chibok schoolgirls abducted two years ago is all too common in Nigeria's conflict-affected northeastern communities, and up to 7,000 women and girls might be living in abduction and sex slavery, senior UN officials warned Thursday.

"Humanitarian agencies are concerned that two years have passed, and still the fate of the Chibok girls and the many, many other abductees is unknown," said Samoura.

At the hands of their captors, they have suffered forced recruitment, forced marriage, sexual slavery and rape, and have been used to carry bombs. "Between 2,000 and 7,000 women and girls are living in abduction and sex slavery," said Jean Gough, the country representative of UNICEF.

Women and girls who have escaped Boko Haram have reported undergoing a systematic training program to train them as bombers, according to UNICEF. And 85 percent of the suicide attacks by women globally in 2014 were executed in Nigeria.

In May 2015, it was reported that children had been used to perpetrate three-quarters of all suicide attacks in Nigeria since 2014. Many of the bombers had been brainwashed or coerced.

As the Nigerian military recaptures territory from Boko Haram, abducted women and girls are being recovered. Many of the girls who experienced horrific trauma of sexual violence during captivity are now facing rejection by their families and communities, because of their association with Boko Haram.

"You are a Boko Haram wife, don't come near us!" one girl reported being told. Effective rehabilitation for these women and girls is vital when they rebuild their lives.

Children have suffered disproportionately as a result of the conflict. The Chibok abduction was not an isolated incident.

A total of 300 children, who were abducted from a school in Damasak, Borno, in November 2014, remain missing.

A UNICEF report, released earlier this week, said that 1.3 million children have been displaced by the conflict across the Lake Chad Basin, almost a million of whom are in Nigeria. Similarly, Human Rights Watch have reported that 1 million children have lost access to education.

"The abducted Chibok girls have become a symbol for every girl that has gone missing at the hands of Boko Haram, and every girl who insists on practicing her right to education," said Munir Safieldin, deputy UN humanitarian coordinator for Nigeria.

More needs to be done by the Nigerian government and the international community to keep them safe from the horrors other women and girls have endured. Safe schools are a good start, but safe roads and safe homes are also needed.

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