The Boko Haram sect have been found to be behind the kidnap of more than 1,000 children in neighbouring Cameroon.
According to a tof United Nations official, Najat Rochdi, who is the humanitarian coordinator for Cameroon, Boko Haram makes use some of these children as human shields. In an interview with AFP in Geneva, she described the system of the sect as use as inhuman.
Cameroon is a country that shares a border with Nigeria in the Northeastern where the Boko Haram insurgents have been operational since 2009 and has killed more than 15,000 people. Rochdi pointed out that the sect began their cross border attacks in July 2014 which initially started out as hit and run attacks to steal food but soon escalated into burning villages and kidnaps which eventually graduated to kidnapping children.
According to Rochdi, she had information that around 1,500 children have been kidnapped stating that they were being used as servants who fetched water and carried tents. She also revealed that the insurgents used the children as human shield at the heightened attacks in Northern Cameroon in February 2015.
“To my knowledge, the children were used as human shields … (and) were aged between eight and 12,” she said.
She however said that it was unclear if the children were from Nigeria, Cameroon or elsewhere asserting that the children were backed by youth who had been locally recruited with the heavily armed insurgents bringing up the rear. She also said that the Cameroon army were traumatized at having to face children on a battlefield. saying; “The worst was the children… Obviously this created a horrible situation.”
Despite the fact that there is a four nation fight back against the insurgents, Rochdi said the UN doesn’t feel like that the attacks are over in Cameroon just yet. She commended President Buhari’s commitment to fighting the group but she expressed fears that more of them might be pushed into Cameroon.
She said that if that happens, it would be disastrous for Cameroon as the country already plays host to hundreds of thousands of Nigerian and Central African Republic refugees in addition to nearly 100, 000 internally displaced Cameroonians since the attacks started.
This development she said has put a very high pressure on the country’s resources, which has also been hit by a series of recurring natural disasters such as floods and droughts, and this has left over a million Cameroonians wondering were their next meal will come from.
According to her, more than 200,000 Cameroonian children are malnourished warning that of the $264 million the UN appealed for to help Cameroon, only 31% has been approved resulting to cuts in education programmes and food rations. While appealing for more help, she warned that the continued humanitarian crises have made Cameroon a “fertile ground for recruitment for Boko Haram,” also cautioning that if more help wasn’t rendered, the country risked “becoming a real threat to the stability of the whole region.”