A new report by the United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF, says the majority of Nigerian children suffer violent abuse. The report says that for some kids, the abuse starts before their fifth birthday.
The report’s findings released Thursday paint a grim picture of children’s lives in Nigeria. It says that six out of 10 children experience some form of violence before they turn 18, with half of them experiencing physical violence.
Others are abused emotionally or sexually. The violence starts young: over half of children were abused before the age of 11, and one in 10 were abused before they turned five.
Rachel Harvey, the chief of child protection for UNICEF in Nigeria, says the abuse is rarely done only once.
“For around about 80 percent of children this would happen again, and again, and again. And also children suffer more than one type of violence as well,” she said.
Most children find themselves facing the abuse alone. Those abused mostly know their abusers, Harvey says. They tend to be parents, other relatives or male teachers.
“Children revealed that they didn’t know where to go. The majority of children don’t know where to seek help,” Harvey said.
The first of its kind in Africa, Harvey says this survey covered all of Nigeria’s 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory.
Nigeria has been struggling with numerous security crises in recent years, including an insurgency by Islamist Boko Haram militants in its northeast and clashes between farmers and herdsmen in its north-central middle belt. But Harvey says the survey was intended to show the violence against children extends beyond these areas.
“The purpose of this survey was to bring to the spotlight that violence against children is not just happening to marginalized groups, not just happening in conflict-affected areas. It’s happening in communities, in homes, it’s not someone else’s problem, it’s really everybody’s problem,” she said.
Harvey says the abuse becomes "cyclical" children who suffer abuse often grow up to abuse their partners.
President Muhammadu Buhari is expected to unveil the government’s response to the UNICEF report next week.