The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) has condemned the deaths of children in an explosion in Borno state saying it could have been avoided.
It was reported that the children were killed when a disused grenade they were playing with exploded outside the town of Ngala, near the border with Cameroon.
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The children were said to have picked up the explosive while herding in a field outside the town and it exploded in their hands as they were playing with it.
While reacting to the incident on Saturday, UNICEF’s representative in Nigeria, Peter Hawkins, in a statement said it was unfortunate that conflict-affected children continue to be casualties of war.
“The avoidable deaths of the children – as young as 12 years – who were playing on Mblu Bridge in Ngala, is yet another sad reminder that children remain direct and indirect targets of the protracted conflict wracking north-east Nigeria. While three children have sadly lost their lives, three others are in critical conditions while two other children sustained mild injuries.
“In 12 years of protracted conflict in the north-east, thousands of children in the region have been killed, maimed, abducted, displaced, and experienced multiple violations of their human rights. UNICEF is deeply worried that conflict-affected children continue to be casualties of war.
“First of all, we extend our deepest and heartfelt sympathy to the families of the children killed. No family should have to go through this – and no child should fall victim to unexploded remnants of war while playing,” said Peter Hawkins, UNICEF Nigeria Representative.
“Children are at particular risk from unexploded ordnance, which are small enough to pick up or kick around, and which children can mistake for toys or objects of value. Such weapons account for over half of those killed or injured by landmines and other explosive remnants of war globally.
“These deaths are unacceptable. All sides to the ongoing conflict must protect children and prioritise their wellbeing at all times. Playing fields, schoolyards and communities must be safe and habitable for children,’’ said Peter Hawkins.
“Children’s lives should not be at stake in a conflict they didn’t start. We must address the shrinking safe spaces for children and ensure that children – especially those already affected by conflict – are protected and have a chance to survive and fulfill their potential.”