UNITED NATIONS, July 28 (UPI) -- United Nations officials accused the insurgent Islamist group Boko Haram of barbaric violence, and said regional forces fighting it are underfunded.
Stephen O'Brien, U.N. humanitarian coordinator, told the U.N. Security Council the level of Boko Haram violence in western Africa is "almost unimaginable" and added its "heinous, barbaric and unconscionable" viciousness has violated human rights in Nigeria and surrounding countries. The United Nations has said more than 9 million people, 7 million in Nigeria, are in need of humanitarian assistance, and 250,000 children in Nigeria's Borno state are suffering from severe malnutrition.
"From January to June 2016, more than 50 children have been coerced to carry out suicide bombings across the four countries," O'Brien said Tuesday, referring to Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Cameroon. Boko Haram, which is allied with the Islamic State, has sought an Islamist caliphate in Nigeria since 2002. The group began military operations in 2009, killing thousands of civilians and displacing millions of others. As Nigerian troops retook about 80 percent of territory gained by Boko Haram in the past year, the insurgent group expanded its operations to other countries in the Lake Chad Basin.
Jeffrey Feltman, U.N. undersecretary-general for political affairs, told the Security Council that despite the removal of Boko Haram from some areas, it remains a destabilizing force in the region, and also warned of a lack of funding on the part of forces repelling the group.
"The Boko Haram crisis has devastated the region's economy. Economic growth dropped sharply with the decline of oil prices and other commodities. Decreasing resources affects the states' ability to deliver basic social services and to pay the salaries of security forces and civil servants. Insecurity has disrupted trade routes between Chad and Nigeria, interrupting the supply of basic goods and producing price hikes. Youth unemployment is at a worrisome high, providing recruitment ground for Boko Haram. We urge that military operations be complemented with development interventions, including to address the effects of climate change."
Feltman added that a military approach to defeating Boko Haram was indispensable but "will not bring end to the Boko Haram threat." He advocated encouraging and funding community and religious leaders in the Lake Chad Basin to stop the radicalization of local youth, and to lead de-radicalization processes.