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UNICEF calls for end to recruitment of child soldiers

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...Also condemns domestic abuse of children

UNITED Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) has called for an end to the recruitment and use of children by armed groups in Nigeria, and the release of those in the custody of such groups.

  This was contained in a press release presented to journalists in Abuja Monday, which came on the International Day Against the Use of Child Soldiers, otherwise known as “Red Hand Day”.

  The agency stated that more than 8,000 girls and boys have been recruited and used as child soldiers in different roles by armed groups across Nigeria.

  “For 13 years, armed conflict in north-east Nigeria has claimed thousands of lives and disrupted livelihoods and access to essential services for children and their families.

  “Nearly one million homes and 5,000 classrooms have been razed in the protracted armed conflict. Since 2009, more than 8,000 girls and boys have been recruited and used as child soldiers in different roles by armed groups.

  “We call for an immediate end to the recruitment and use of innocent children as soldiers or for any other conflict-related role,” Phuong Nguyen, UNICEF Chief of Maiduguri Field Office said.

  It is unacceptable and unconscionable that girls and boys continue to serve on the frontlines of a conflict they did not start.”

  UNICEF called on the Nigerian authorities to sign the Handover Protocol for children encountered in the course of armed conflict in Nigeria and the Lake Chad Basin Region, which would end the detention of children formerly associated with armed groups.

  “The Handover Protocol would ensure children encountered during military and security operations are transferred from military custody to civilian child protection actors to support their reintegration into society through the provision of family tracing and reunification services and medical, educational and psychosocial recovery services. Support would also life skills support, skills training and links to decent work.

  “We must do more to ensure that Nigeria’s children do not suffer the worst impacts of conflict,” said Nguyen.

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