NEW DELHI: A new UNICEF report has found an increase in the use of child suicide bombers by militant group Boko Haram, stating that nearly one of four suicide bombers between the period of January 2014 and June 2016 was a child. The report additionally concludes that millions of children are trapped or displaced as a result of violence at the hands of militant group Boko Haram in Africa’s Lake Chad Basin.

The report notes that years of violence by the militant group has displaced 1.4 million children and left at least one million still trapped in hard-to-reach areas in Africa’s Lake Chad basin, which includes Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad and Niger.

“The Lake Chad crisis is a children’s crisis that should rank high on the global migration and displacement agenda,” said Manuel Fontaine, UNICEF Regional Director for West and Central Africa. “Humanitarian needs are outpacing the response, especially now that new areas previously unreachable in northeast Nigeria become accessible,” he added.

The report, titled Children on the Move, Children Left Behind, looks at the impact of the Boko Haram insurgency on children in the Lake Chad basin countries and its devastating toll on children. It notes that in addition to the 2.6 million people currently displaced, 2.2 million people – over half of them children – are feared to be trapped in areas under the control of Boko Haram and need humanitarian assistance.

The report also noted that most of the displaced population – more than 80 per cent – are staying with families and neighbours, putting additional strain on some of the world’s poorest communities.

“Local communities are sharing the little they have to help those in need in an act of humanity that is replicated in thousands of homes across the conflict-affected areas,” said Mr. Fontaine.

The report also notes that an estimated 475,000 children across the basin region will suffer from severe acute malnutrition this year, up from 175,000 at the beginning of the year. Additionally, in northeast Nigeria alone, an estimated 20,000 children have been separated from their families.

The report notes that “a spiral of violence has uprooted communities in the region since 2013, when the conflict between government forces and armed groups started to escalate. Fear of abuse, sexual violence, forced recruitment or death have forced children to leave their towns and villages, often with as little as the clothes on their back.”

Further, it states that since the the start of the conflict, thousands of children – boys and girls – have been forcibly recruited by armed groups and used to carry out attacks. In fact, as per data between January 2014 and June 2016, nearly one of four suicide bombers is a child.

The report found that an estimated 38 children have been used to carry out suicide attacks in the Lake Chad basin region so far this year, bringing the total number of children used as suicide bombers since 2014 to 86.