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Nigerians Freed From Boko Haram Terrorist Group in Borno State live in Fear and Deprivation

Boko Haram is blamed for about 20,000 deaths since beginning its insurgency in northern Nigeria in 2009

Security officers are called to control some of the internally displaced people at the Bakkasi camp. The people were upset at camp authorities for what they say is poor distribution of food rations, in Borno, Nigeria, on August 29, 2016. VOA

Boko Haram militants have largely been routed by the Nigerian army, but they have not disappeared and still pose a threat in the northern part of Borno State.

Boko Haram controlled some of northeast Nigeria at the start of last year, but it has been pushed out of most of that territory by the Nigerian army, aided by troops from neighbouring Cameroon, Niger and Chad, Reuters reported in September.

Geneva-based officials representing the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) say security in northern Nigeria remains fragile and that people who have suffered for years at the hands of Boko Haram are living in fear of renewed attacks from the militant group.

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Over the past two weeks, U.N. aid workers have been interviewing community leaders and individuals in a number of newly accessible areas of Borno State to learn their needs and concerns.

Borno State and Sambisa Forest. VOA
Borno State and Sambisa Forest. VOA

UNHCR spokesman William Spindler says they have assessed the situation in towns like Monguno, Bama, Damboa and Shani.

“They have found similar patterns in these places of a high level of vulnerability among people displaced by Boko Haram,” he said, “with nearly every family affected by very worrying protection issues and that some of these people live in fear that the insurgency group could attack them again.”

Spindler says the displaced people are living in desperate conditions.

For example, he said more than 60,000 people who fled to Monguno largely from the Marte local government area, are living in dilapidated school buildings and makeshift shelters in nine sites.

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They are suffering food shortages, he said, yet they continue to arrive in Monguno to escape the Nigerian military’s ongoing operations to dislodge Boko Haram from the northern part of Borno State.

Spindler says women and children are particularly vulnerable. Many families are headed by women, he said, because their husbands were killed by Boko Haram, were forced to join the insurgents or disappeared.

He tells VOA these people have lived under the brutal rule of Boko Haram for a long time and are having difficulty recovering from the experience.

“They are traumatised,” he said. “They are in need of help. Some of the problems that we see are related to the fact that they do not have the necessary aid or livelihoods. So, that is why we see some of these negative coping mechanisms like survival sex and other practices.”

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Spindler says women are forced to send their children, some as young as 5, to sell small items or beg in the street so they can buy food and medicine. Others, he says, send children to collect firewood to sell. This puts the girls at risk of sexual attack.

Few of the refugees are likely to return to their home villages soon because of continuing insecurity and the presence of landmines in their villages and fields, Spindler said.

Boko Haram is blamed for about 20,000 deaths since beginning its insurgency in northern Nigeria in 2009. The Islamist extremist group says it wants to create a strict Islamic state in Muslim-majority northern Nigeria. (VOA)

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Over 100 ‘Chibok Girls’ Rescued From Boko Haram Militants Restart Education in Nigeria

The abductions had sparked worldwide outrage and a "Bring Back Our Girls" movement that gained supporters in the United States, including then-first lady Michelle Obama.

Boko Haram
Chibok girls entertain guests during their send-forth dinner at A Class garden in Abuja, Nigeria. The girls will commence a special foundation program at American University of Nigeria Yola .VOA

Nigeria, September 21, 2017 : More than 100 ”Chibok girls” released by Boko Haram militants, have begun a new phase of their lives. They have started taking classes at the American University of Nigeria after months of rest and recovery under the care of the Nigerian government.

The girls had been expected to start at the university in the city of Yola early next month, and the government threw them a send-off party last week at their rehabilitation center in the capital, Abuja; but, the chairman of the Chibok parents’ association, Yakubu Nkeki, said the start date was moved up because the school year had already begun.

Boko Haram
Some of the 106 girls who were kidnapped by Boko Haram militants in the Nigerian town of Chibok, are seen dancing joyfully during the send-forth dinner in Abuja, Nigeria, Sept. 13, 2017. (VOA)

“I went with them to the school until they were handed over to the school authority,” Nkeki told VOA’s Hausa service on Tuesday. “Since the school has already started, it was decided that it is best for them to go straight to school so they don’t miss too many classes. They were already starting late.”

At the send-off party, the minister for women’s affairs and social development, Hajia Jummai Alhassan, said the girls will start remedial classes at AUN to prepare them for undergraduate studies in any field of their choice, to be paid for by the federal government.

Boko Haram
Some of the gifts packaged to be given to the 106 girls who were kidnapped by Boko Haram militants in the Nigerian town of Chibok, are seen during the send-forth dinner in Abuja (VOA)

AUN was already educating 24 girls who escaped Boko Haram shortly after the Islamist radical group, notorious for killing thousands of Nigerians, kidnapped more than 250 students from a secondary school in the Borno state town of Chibok in April 2014.

The abductions sparked worldwide outrage and a “Bring Back Our Girls” movement that gained supporters in the United States, including then-first lady Michelle Obama.

The girls who entered the university this week spent 30 to 37 months in Boko Haram captivity before the militants released them in two groups, in October 2016 and May 2017, following negotiations with the Nigerian government.

U.S. Representative Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.), an early supporter of Bring Back Our Girls, met the girls in Abuja shortly before they left the city and told VOA the former captives generally seemed to be in good shape; but, she said that according to the girls’ caretakers, this followed a long period of medical treatment and psychological therapy.

Boko Haram
In this file photo taken from video released by Nigeria’s Boko Haram terrorist network, May 12, 2014, shows missing girls abducted from the northeastern town of Chibok. (VOA)

“Can you imagine being held captive with terrorists, men who frighten you every single day for three years? When you are released, you are not normal, your psyche is not too good. They had to debrief them and help them,” Wilson told VOA.

Wilson said she was told that some girls are also recovering from bullet wounds, machete wounds and snake bites.

ALSO READ Boko Haram Refugees Raped by Nigerian Troops and Police, says Human Rights Watch (HRW)

Wilson said that contrary to some reports, the girls have seen their families since being released; but, she endorsed the government’s decision to keep the girls together in rehab instead of returning them to their homes.

“Because these girls had been together so long, to separate them would have traumatized them in my estimation. I think the decision to keep them together was the best thing they could have done,” she said.

More than 100 girls from Chibok remain in Boko Haram captivity, three-and-a-half years after they were taken.

At the send-off party, Women’s Affairs Minister Alhassan expressed optimism the rest of the girls will be freed.

“I assure you that by the grace of God, we will have our remaining girls released,” she said. (VOA)