The Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict (SRSG CAAC), Virginia Gamba, called for the immediate release of some 300 schoolgirls abducted last week in Nigeria’s Zamfara State. She expressed serious concerns at the notable increase of abduction incidents in the country in recent months in which girls have been particularly targeted.

“This recent horrendous incident against schoolgirls is not only a gruesome attack on vulnerable children, it is also the direct targeting of their right to education,” said Virginia Gamba. “The six grave violations against children in situations of armed conflict are intrinsically interlinked and the abduction of boys and girls is often the first of many violations facing children such as recruitment and use or sexual violence.”

“Abduction is also closely linked to attacks on schools and hospitals. Every child has the fundamental right to an education and to have access to schools where they can feel protected in order to learn and play. This safe space is shrinking and education, not just for children, is now under attack. We need to do more to prevent the use and abuse of children by, in and for armed violence and conflict,” highlighted Virginia Gamba, who further emphasized that, “abduction is the fastest growing violation documented against children since the pandemic began.”

The abduction of children by Boko Haram and other armed groups has resurged in recent months, including in areas of the country previously spared from this scourge, according to preliminary figures. Beyond Nigeria, abduction has been the most prominent violation verified in 2020 in the whole of the Lake Chad Basin region, mostly perpetrated by Boko Haram and affiliated groups; girls have overall been significantly more affected. In Mali, the abduction of children has alarmingly increased and the abduction of girls for the purpose of sexual violence has been verified. In Burkina Faso, attacks on schools have been linked to the abduction, threatening and killing of related protected personnel. In Cameroon’s North-West and South-West regions, attacks on schools have increased since the reopening of schools in October 2020. Children were abducted, killed and maimed on their way to and from schools, as well as during attacks on schools.

Furthermore, a worrying increase in abductions and other grave violations, particularly sexual violence against children, has also been observed in Somalia. Abductions in Somalia are often committed together with other violations, particularly the recruitment and use of children, and Al Shabaab remains the main perpetrator. A similar trend has been documented in the Democratic Republic of the Congo where children have been abducted in greater numbers, mainly for the purpose of recruitment and use by an ever-growing number of armed groups.

The pandemic, lockdown and resulting isolation, including confinement and movement restrictions, have made conflict-affected children even more vulnerable to grave violations in several contexts. Socio-economic impacts and increased military presence are also making boys and girls more susceptible to push and pull factors for child recruitment and use by armed forces and armed groups, sexual violence or abduction.

“I reiterate my call for the immediate release of all abducted girls, and I urge the authorities in Nigeria to increase prevention efforts to halt the wave of attacks against school children and ensure that the right to education of all children, boys and girls, is fully protected. They are the future and merit our utmost efforts for protection. Public awareness and early warning mechanisms can contribute to such prevention efforts, including at national, regional and local levels, and my office remains available to support such moves,” she added.


Note to editors: The Office of the SRSG CAAC is currently developing a technical guidance on better monitoring and reporting the abduction of children in situations of armed conflict, which will be released in the coming months.


 For additional information, please contact:

Fabienne Vinet, Communications Officer, Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict

+1-646-537-5066 (mobile) /

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