About 200 of the women and girls were visibly pregnant among the hundreds of captives recently rescued in the Nigerian military fight against Boko Haram insurgents, according to news reports.
Nigerian troops had rescued the young women, along with children, from the Sambisa Forest in Borno State, the stronghold of the Islamist extremists, whose campaign of violence has left thousands dead across northern Nigeria.
A new challenge is emerging, however, with reports indicating that more than 200 of the rescued girls and women arrived in displacement camps pregnant.
Director of search and rescue at the National Emergency Management Agency, Air Commodore Charles Otegbade, reportedly said the agency has made all the necessary planning with relevant stakeholders for trauma counseling and other forms of assistance to take care of the women and girls.
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UNFPA Executive Director Babatunde Osotimehin explained to Vanguard, a Nigerian publication, that some of the girls would need more attention than the others.
“What we found is that some of the women and girls that have come back actually have much more in terms of the stress they have faced, so the counseling has to be more intense and working with them one-on-one,” Osotimehin said.
“In conflict and disasters, most people would only think of water and sanitation, provision of tents and housing, and food, which are all important. But women and girls have specific needs …. Nobody segregates the needs of the pregnant women which are very important and different from the needs of the average community,” Osotimehin added. “We look after them, and ensure they get antenatal care and that they deliver properly and that they even get cesarean section when necessary.”
Nigeria’s military rescue operation raised hopes that the Chibok girls kidnapped more than a year ago could be among the hundreds of freed young women and children now in displacement camps. But the military has cautioned against such a notion.
“The true identity of some of the rescued women and girls are yet to be ascertained,” Major General Chris Olukolade, director of defence information, said in a statement. “Additional number of persons are still being recovered from the forest. Until such comprehensive profiling is done, nobody can confirm whether they are among the Chibok girls or not.”