13/04/2016 13:03 BST | Updated 14/04/2017 06:12 BST

Children Used as Suicide Bombers - The Latest Horrific Tactic of Boko Haram

Two years ago 276 girls were kidnapped from Chibok in northeast Nigeria by Boko Haram and the world responded with the #BringBackOurGirls campaign. Two years later, most of the girls remain missing.

Since the time when the girls were taken from their school by armed militiamen, the impact of the conflict on children has grown dramatically. Over the past year, 44 children have been used as suicide bombers. In fact, the number of children used in suicide attacks has increased ten-fold over the last year and over 75% of the children involved in the attacks are girls. Nearly one out of every five suicide bombers is a child.


Eleven year old Nigerian refugee, Talatu John, fled to the Minawao refugee camp in Northern Cameroon, after her aunt and uncle were killed by Boko Haram.

The calculated use of children who have been coerced into carrying bombs, has created an atmosphere of fear and suspicion within the region. And as suicide attacks involving children becomes commonplace, some communities are beginning to see children as threats to their safety.

Nowadays, violence and attacks against civilian populations in parts of Nigeria are a daily occurrence and schools, teachers and children - especially girls' education - continue to remain a target.


Children, led by teacher Yafati Sanda (at blackboard), recite numbers during a class in an informal learning centre in a UNICEF-supported safe space for children in the Dalori camp for internally displaced people, in the north-eastern city of Maiduguri in Borno State. Ms. Sanda, who manages the space, was the principal at the Government Secondary School in Bama until the town was attacked by Boko Haram insurgents. © UNICEF/ Esiebo

As a result, this conflict has forced more than 670,000 children out of the classrooms, adding to the 11 million children of primary school age who were already out of school in Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad and Niger before the onset of the crisis.

Across these countries, over 1,800 schools remain closed - many have been for more than a year - and hundreds have been attacked, looted and set on fire.

This is unacceptable. Every child has a right to an education, to peace and security and Unicef is working to ensure that as many children are afforded these rights.

Sixteen-year-old Grace fled her home after witnessing the brutal beheading of her father by Boko Haram. She explained that when they left their town she thought it was the end of the road for her and her quest for an education, but luckily it wasn't.


Grace Mathew 16, now lives in the Dalori refugee camp after fleeing their home in the village of Bama after it was attacked and her father was killed by Boko Haram insurgents. © UNICEF/ Esiebo

Grace, along with many other of the 1.4million children who have been displaced by the conflict across Nigeria and the neighbouring countries of Cameroon, Chad and Niger, has been able to continue her education thanks to Unicef's programmes.

Now living in the Dalori refugee camp for internally displaced people, in the north-eastern city of Maiduguri, Grace is part of the double-shift schooling system Unicef is operating that allows children from both the local community and displaced families to get an education. In total, there are 873 children from the camps and host community attending the same school as Grace.


Children laugh and clap during an activity at an informal learning centre in a UNICEF-supported safe space in the Dalori camp for internally displaced people, in the north-eastern city of Maiduguri in Borno State. © UNICEF/ Esiebo

Unicef, together with governments and partners continues to work to provide an education for thousands of children. We are supporting children into school and providing temporary learning spaces.

Boko Haram have now been active for seven years and it is estimated that over five million children's lives have been affected during this time.

We must continue to support these children and ensure that they get an education, but most importantly of all it is essential that schools remain safe spaces.

You can help by telling David Cameron to make protection from this type of violence a priority. He can do this by committing his Government to protecting children from extreme violence, protecting the schools that keep them safe and protecting children who are torn from their families by wars and disasters.

Please sign our petition here