The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has expressed concern about what it called “escalating violence against children in northern Nigeria.”
UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake said in a statement Sunday that the “images from Northern Nigeria should be searing the conscience of the world.”
The statement came after two explosions ripped through a market in northeastern Nigeria Sunday killing at least five people, including the two bombers. Twenty-one others were wounded.
The attacks were said to be carried out by two young girls. Sunday’s explosions came after a bomb strapped to a girl exploded in Maiduguri killing at least 19 people.
Jean Gouge, UNICEF Nigeria representative, said the latest trend of using young girls to carry out such attacks is particularly worrying.
“We are seeing a new trend of using girls and women, and now of children, as suicide bombers. This is something that is new to this conflict. So, this trend is very worrying to us because this is something that is very difficult to find [a] solution to,” she said.
Gouge said UNICEF is trying to figure out what’s responsible for this trend. She said the most likely explanation is that someone is getting them to kill.
“We have not done a scientific study, but what we have seen is that, most likely, these kids are not aware and that they are being used. Most likely, someone controls the remote control. We do think that these children are victims to this conflict,” Gouge said.
She said UNICEF is also working on an initiative that would help keep children in school and away from violence.
“Of course, when children are not in school and not in safe places, then they are more exposed to all this violence. That’s why we are working on an initiative called ‘Safe School Initiative’ to make sure that we are able to get children back into schools because that’s part of ensuring that they have a safe and protected place,” Gouge said.
Gouge said UNICEF has been calling for the release of the more than 200 girls who were kidnapped in Borno State town of Chibok last April.
To mitigate the effect of the kidnapping other girls, Gouge said UNICEF has been working with the Nigerian government to provide scholarships for them.