Three years after #BringBackOurGirls, the Boko Haram conflict is far from over, as Nigeria’s girls face extreme violence, oppression and an escalating food crisis which may soon tip over into widespread famine.
Millions around the world were stunned when news broke that Boko Haram had abducted 276 girls from a high school in Chibok, Nigeria, on April 14, leading to a prolific social media campaign.
The hashtag #BringBackOurGirls was used more than a million times on social media attracting high-profile supporters including Michelle Obama and model Cara Delevingne.
Three years later, the violence is far from over for Nigeria’s girls.
Plan International interviewed a Boko Haram survivor, who at 18-years-old was abducted with her mother and other women in her village. She escaped only by feigning disability.
“I was ready to play any role to avoid being touched by those men though, as I knew the fate of other girls captured by the armed group. They are forced into marriage and made to serve all their needs,” she said.
Another girl, who was taken at age 14 escaped with the help of an elderly woman within a Boko Haram controlled camp. “The old woman led us into the woods at night and pointed us in the right direction. We just ran breathless into the darkness. The woman stayed behind,” she said.
Plan International Australia CEO Ian Wishart said since the girls’ disappearance, Boko Haram violence has escalated, affecting more than 17 million people.
“The Bring Back our Girls campaign might’ve ended, but this issue has not gone away. The missing Chibok girls are the public face of a very intense unfolding crisis. There are so many thousands more like them whose stories are not being told.”
“We are calling on the Australian Government to strengthen its funding commitment to the ongoing crisis in the Lake Chad Basin and work with parties to ensure safe humanitarian access.”
On March 30 this year, 18 girls were kidnapped and on 2 April, another 22 women and girls were taken in a separate village. In total 4.4 million children are in need of humanitarian assistance because of ongoing conflict.
“This terrible conflict in the Lake Chad Basin region, which straddles Nigeria, Cameroon, Niger and Chad, is now fuelling one of Africa’s largest displacement crises. The worsening food crisis threatens to push some areas of Nigeria into famine,” Mr Wishart added.
“Ongoing security issues have exacerbated an already fragile food situation, with the UN estimating that 6.3 million people are now facing a food crisis, over 70 per cent of which are in northeast Nigeria.
“For the third year in a row, there has been no food production, as farmers have been unable to plant crops due to the constant threat of violence in Nigeria’s North East. Plan Australia has received reports that children and families are begging on the streets to feed themselves.”
Lake Chad Basin crisis: Plan International’s response
In response to the worsening Lake Chad Basin crisis, Plan International is working in two field offices in Adamawa and Borno states - the worst-affected areas in Nigeria. The organisation is currently providing emergency relief goods for vulnerable families especially those who are Internally Displaced Persons, ensuring access to education, paying a particular focus to young women and girls throughout the emergency.