Zayyad I. Muhammad: The Youths in the Boko Haram Conflict Region

There are quite a number of young people in the Lake Chad region (Nigeria, Niger, Cameroun and Chad) affected by the Boko Haram conflict- the Chibok girls are a good example . The March 2016 edition of the monthly situation report by the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and International Organization for Migration (IMO) indicates that there are 7 million people in need of humanitarian assistance in Nigeria, including 1.9 million displaced by the Boko Haram conflict. 92% of the IDPs are being hosted by low-income host communities, bringing already-stretched services and resources under increased pressure. The armed conflict has directly affected four states in the North East of Nigeria: Borno, Adamawa, Yobe and Gombe. The current humanitarian response covers all four states, with Borno State being the most affected and the epicenter of military operations and displacement of civilians. Thus, these areas have the largest number of young people affected by the war. These young people are either forcefully indoctrinated, killed, forced out of schools; kidnapped as sex slaves; their local businesses and farm lands destroyed; separated from their relatives (parents); orphaned or their thought line affected by trauma of wars and poverty.
Furthermore, the young people in these Boko Haram conflict areas are faced with limited education opportunities, unemployment; unproductive jobs; HIV/AIDs crisis; the trauma of war; bad leadership and other forms of violence. Though, some reports have shown that terrorist, Boko Haram inclusive, recruitment of young people is via conscription, abduction or coercion, it is the lack of opportunities in their communities, poverty and illiteracy that most often leads young people into a life of violence and terrorism.
As peace is gradually returning to some of these areas and government of Nigeria is planning on how to smoothly return IDPs to liberated areas, the role of young people is critical in sustaining the fragile peace and long-term stability. Designing projects and programmes for community protection and avoiding future conflict in these communities cannot be successful without involving young people.
Young people in conflict zones cannot play their expected role without getting help and being involved in design and implementation of programmes and projects meant for them and their communities.  Programmes and projects for young people in these conflict zones should be well-planned and adequately funded and the young people should be given a sense being important stakeholders in such programmes and projects.
These programmes and projects should be carefully-designed in such a way that there is a strong synergy between affected states of Borno, Yobe, Adamaw, Gombe including Bauchi, Taraba and the federal government of Nigeria, while also involving donor agencies and NGOs in the areas of funding, monitoring and evaluation.
The already existing humanitarian programmes and projects should be redesigned to give young people specific roles- this will help in the development and reorientation of their minds. These young people essentially need reorienting because during conflicts, their nascent minds have been exposed to various vices such as rape, kidnapping, torture, seclusion, sexual trafficking and exploitation.
Recreational activities and creation of community centers in the liberated areas for young minds to interact and discuss issues are very critical to reintegrating them into normal communal living. They can also discuss issues and events while well-trained counselors assist them in overcoming the traumas of the conflict.
Provision of basic services- healthcare, education, water supply, information on diseases such as HIV/AIDS, and basic agriculture extension services especially on gardening are specifically essential to young people in post-conflict zones in northeast Nigeria.
Young people in the Boko Haram war ravaged zones are strategic figures in efforts to reconstruct, rehabilitate and resettle their communities. A well-planned program for them will fast track the healing of the scars of war, help to restore basic infrastructure and local economies, and returning these communities to their pre-war or even better conditions. However, collaboration between all the   tiers of government, aid from the international community and the involvement of NGOs both local and international are as well very important in planning for young people in the Boko Haram conflict zone.
Zayyad I. Muhammad, Jimeta, Adamawa State, He blogs at, 08036070980
 Views expressed are solely that of author and does not represent views of nor its associates 

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