Nearly one in five suicide bombers used by Islamist terror group Boko Haram is a child with more than half of them being girls, according to a UN report.
The number of children used by Boko Haram as suicide bombers has risen tenfold in one year and more than 75% of them are girls, according to UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
It said 44 children were involved in suicide bombings in 2015, up from four the previous year and over the past two years, nearly one in five suicide bombers was a child.
Between January 2014 and February 2016, Cameroon recorded the highest number of suicide attacks involving children at 21, followed by Nigeria with 17 and Chad with two. In Niger, Boko Haram attacks have increased since January, OCHA said in a statement last week.
The UN humanitarian wing warned that the group’s gunmen continue to carry out attacks on civilian and military targets despite the ramped up military operations in the Lake Chad Basin region.
Security remains volatile in many of the region’s conflict-affected areas, complicating aid access to those in need.
Some three million people are already food insecure and many more are expected to face hunger as the lean season progresses.
OCHA estimates that some 486,000 children in Borno and 242,000 children in Yobe in north-eastern Nigeria are suffering from Global Acute Malnutrition.
Some 73,000 children under two years of age in these communities need to urgently receive ready-to-use supplementary specialised nutritious food.
Without interventions an estimated 67,000 children aged six to 59 months with severe acute malnutrition are likely to die in Borno and Yobe states in 2016. This translates to 184 deaths every day, the report said.
Intensified military offensives from the regional multinational force and troops from the Lake Chad Basin countries have forced the gunmen to retreat to the border areas between Niger and Nigeria where they attack villages that have little or no military presence.
OCHA noted that only 10 per cent of the USD 535 million required to assist the affected populations across the region has been received.
In Nigeria, the displaced continue to be exposed to protection risks, in particular those amongst the most vulnerable who have specific needs such as the elderly, child-headed households, women, boys and girls and those with disabilities.
Women report sexual and gender-based violence when fleeing the armed conflict, the report said.