UNICEF is describing it as a “major humanitarian crisis.” This year alone, over 475,000 children in Africa’s Lake Chad Basin are expected to suffer from severe acute malnutrition, according to a new report by the aid organisation.
Violence attributed to rebel groups such as Boko Haram is said to have inflamed the situation in a region already regularly struck by epidemics, droughts and floods.
UNHCR spokesperson Adrian Edwards described the situation.
“We have seen adults so exhausted that they are unable to move, children with swollen faces, hollow eyes and other clear indications of acute malnutrition,” he told the UN.
“There is urgent need for armoured vehicles, military escorts providing, better security and protection for all of us as humanitarians to be able to more effectively reach vulnerable populations.’‘
Up to 1.4 million children are said to be among the 2.6 million people forced to flee their homes as a result of attacks in the area, which spans parts of Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon and Chad.
Some didn’t manage to escape. Since 2014, 86 children have been used in suicide attacks, the report finds. That’s nearly one in every four suicide bombers.
The conflict started to escalate in 2013, seeing thousands of children forcibly recruited by armed insurgents.