Boko Haram has not only displaced children but also transformed them into suicide bombers, says a new report by the United Nations Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF).
Between April 14 and 15, 2014, hundreds of schoolgirls were kidnapped by Boko Haram, one of the deadliest Islamic terrorists and extremists, from a school in Chibok, Nigeria while they were preparing for an exam. While some girls managed to escape, most remained missing.
Since then, at least 1.3 million children, mostly females, are either displaced or kidnapped, according to "Beyond Chibok," making it one of the worst humanitarian crises in Africa.
The report also highlighted [PDF] the rapidly growing trend of using children for suicide attacks in countries like Chad, Cameroon, and Nigeria.
While there are four young suicide bombers in 2014, the number grew to more than ten times in 2015, which means 1 in every 5 suicide bombing attacks was carried out by a child as young as 8 years old.
Cameroon had the highest incidence of child suicide bombers at 21 followed by Nigeria at 17, and about 75 percent of these attacks were done by young girls.
Using children as suicide bombers has made it more difficult for the young ones as "some communities are starting to see children as threats to their safety," said UNICEF regional director for West and Central Africa Manuel Fontaine.
They are easily discriminated against, ostracized, and feared by their own villages and even their respective families.
Females also face bigger challenges. Aside from coping with the physical and mental trauma brought about by being kidnapped by Boko Haram, they also have to deal with the stigma that comes along with being victims of sexual assault even if some of these women didn't experience it.
"Women and girls are often shunned by their communities, either because they are carrying children after being raped by Boko Haram fighters or because their family believe they may have been radicalized while in captivity," said UNICEF.
UNICEF and other relevant organizations have been making huge strides in giving more comprehensive access to basic services and education to families and children displaced by the war including 152,322 children who have participated in learning programs or attended schools.
However, millions still require help, and UNICEF has received only $11 million of the $97 million required funding.
If you wish to help, join their #Bringbackourchildhood campaign and donate.