Rescued Chibok girls face stigmatisation, says UNICEF

Ebun Francis

UNICEF says the 21 Chibok girls and other girls rescued last week will require intensive support to rebuild their lives as they confront a new ordeal of stigmatisation resulting from their forced association with Boko Haram.

According to UNICEF the reunion of the girls with their families underscores the need for intensive support for women and girls who have been enslaved by the terror group.

“The release is great news and we are delighted to see the girls back with their families, but we must keep pressing for all the women and children held by Boko Haram to be freed,” Gianfranco Rotigliano, representative of UNICEF Nigeria said.

“We must bear in mind that all of those who have been held by Boko Haram will face a long and difficult process to rebuild their lives after the indescribable trauma they have suffered.”

UNICEF says “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 stigmatisation.”

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“People are also often afraid the girls have been indoctrinated by Boko Haram and that 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.”

“The girls report they have been subjected to 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,” UNICEF said.

“When they do reach safety, girls who have been held by Boko Haram are often ill, malnourished, traumatised and exhausted; they are in need of medical attention and psycho-social support so they can begin to come to terms with their experiences and reintegrate with their families and communities.”