Only in 2016, UNICEF along it’s partners (International Alert) International Alert working with affected communities through a network of trained religious and community leaders have provided comprehensive reintegration assistance programme to over 750 women and girls subjected to Boko Haram-related sexual violence in Nigeria, a release by the country representative, Gianfranco Rptigliano confirmed.
According to the release sent to LEADERSHIP, majority of the girls so far released from Boko Haram captivity decried that they have been subjected to sexual assault.
The report noted that, the girls were “rape – frequently in the form of forced “marriages” – beatings, intimidation and starvation during their captivity. Many returned pregnant or with babies as a result of rape.
Gianfranco who insited that, girls held by Boko Haram need support to rebuild shattered lives added that the recent relaase of 21 Chibok girls and subsequent reunions with family highlight plight of thousands of girls held by Boko Haram.
“When they do reach safety, girls who have been held by Boko Haram are often ill, malnourished, traumatized and exhausted; they are in need of medical attention and psychosocial support so they can begin to come to terms with their experiences and reintegrate with their families and communities.
Frequently, returning to their families and communities is the beginning of a new ordeal for the girls, as the sexual violence they have suffered often results in stigmatization”.
The UNICEF Country Reps further argued that, people are also often afraid the girls must have been indoctrinated by Boko Haram hence they pose a threat to their communities.
“The use by Boko Haram of children – mostly girls – as so called ‘suicide’ bombers has fuelled such fears. Children born as a result of the sexual violence are at even greater risk of rejection, abandonment and violence”.
Gianfranco, while calling for more support said, Since January, UNICEF and its partner International Alert have been providing psychosocial support for women and girls who have experienced sexual violence at the hands of Boko Haram. UNICEF and from the Swedish International Development Agency and the UK Department for International Development has so far this year enabled UNICEF to provide a comprehensive programme of reintegration assistance to more than 750 women and girls subjected to Boko Haram-related sexual violence.
“With such large numbers of women and girls having been held by the group, however, the long-term provision of much-needed support remains heavily underfunded”