Over 500 Women and Children rescued from Boko Haram

By Emma Husband, Staff Writer

Last week the Nigerian Army rescued 234 girls from the Sambisa Forest. Today
brings news of more rescues from an operation aimed at destroying a Boko Haram camp in the northeastern state of Borno.

Over 500 women and children have been freed in the assaults on Boko Haram over the past fortnight.

The rescue missions have brought with them casualties too, with reports that the militant group stoned to death women who refused to run away when the army approached.

Other women, probably traumatised by their ordeals, fired on their rescuers.

 Boko Haram demanded the attention of the world just over a year ago when they kidnapped 250 girls from the Government Secondary School in Chibok where they were studying. These girls are not among those who have been rescued. While some escaped, 219 remain missing, reportedly sold off as brides and sex slaves to the militants, or possibly killed.

Amnesty International estimates that around 2000 women have been kidnapped by Boko Haram. While the recent rescue mission represents a breakthrough, the number of women missing, being trained to fight, living in fear, and being regularly raped and assaulted is horrifying.

For the women that have been freed, the question shifts to how to care for them and help them to recover. The UN Population Fund (UNFPA) is providing psychological help and counselling; helping to heal psychological harms is a necessity, otherwise only a proportion of the rescue has been completed, with women constantly reliving their rapes and slavery. 

Of the 234 girls freed from the Sambisa Forest, 214 are visibly pregnant. UNFPA are currently screening the women and providing healthcare. It is not yet clear whether those who wish will be provided with free, safe abortions.

 The full extent of the brutality that the women suffered, and many others are still suffering, is still emerging.