Though headquartered in northern Nigeria, the Islamic jihadist group Boko Haram has been wreaking devastation in neighboring regions as well, and in the last six months has abducted some 1,500 children from Cameroon, according to recent UN reports.
Najat Rochdi, the UN coordinator for Humanitarian Affairs in Cameroon, said that Boko Haram has been terrorizing the local population, resorting to “inhuman methods” and kidnapping children “between eight and 12 years of age” to fight on the front lines against the Cameroon army, using them as human shields.
Others are exploited for heavy work or searching for food and water for the fighters, she said.
In an interview with UN Radio last week, Rochdi said that Cameroon is working to reorganize its ranks for new attacks. Lately Nigerian rebels have been crossing the border into Cameroon where they have abducted children and burned crops, she said.
Boko Haram began its incursions into Cameroon less than a year ago, in July 2014, targeting particularly the region of the far North. That region, Rochdi explained, had enough problems before Boko Haram arrived, marked by food insecurity, child malnutrition, lack of services and weak infrastructure.
Rochdi said that multiple humanitarian crises in the country were creating “fertile ground for recruitment for Boko Haram.”
According to the UN official, a total of 70,000 Nigerian refugees and 100,000 internally displaced citizens are identified in Cameroon. “The worst was the children … Obviously this created a horrible situation,” she said.
Rochdi also appealed to donors, warning that Cameroon risked “becoming a real threat to the stability of the whole region” should sufficient financial help not arrive.
In February, four nations of the Lake Chad Basin—Chad, Cameroon, Niger and Nigeria—launched a coordinated military resistance to stand up to the Boko Haram threat in the region, but so far they have been unsuccessful in effectively thwarting its advance.
Boko Haram has claimed responsibility for a number of deadly shooting attacks and bombings in Nigeria since their rise in 2009, which has left more than 13,000 people dead.
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