The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has said more than 3,500 children, within the age range of 13-17, were recruited by non-state armed groups between 2013 and 2017 in Nigeria's North-East.

In a statement released on its website on Friday, UNICEF said children were being used in the ongoing armed conflict in the North-East.

The organisation made the disclosure ahead of the fifth anniversary of the abduction of 276 girls from the Government Secondary School, Chibok, Borno State, by Boko Haram insurgents.

The UN agency said the number of those recruited could be higher as the 3,500 children were the ones that had been verified.

The statement added that apart from the 3,500 children, “432 children were killed and maimed, 180 were abducted, and 43 girls were sexually abused in North-East Nigeria in 2018.”

Meanwhile, more than 100 of the Chibok girls remain missing.

According to UNICEF, the anniversary of the abduction, slated for April 14, is a grim reminder that widespread abduction of children and grave violations of children’s rights still remain the order of the day in the North-East.

Malick Fall, the UNICEF Representative in Nigeria, said: “Children should feel safe at home, in schools and on their playgrounds at all times.

“We are calling on the parties to the conflict to fulfil their obligations under international law to end violation against children and to stop targeting civilian infrastructure, including schools. This is the only way we can begin to make lasting improvements in the lives of children in this devastated part of Nigeria."

UNICEF said that since 2012, armed groups in the North-East had been recruiting and using children as “combatants and non-combatants, raped and forced girls to marry, and committed other grave violations against childrenĺ, adding that "some of the girls become pregnant in captivity and give birth without any medical care or attention.”

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