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Boko Haram: Provide better healthcare for freed pregnant children, women, SERAP urges FG

Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has urged the government of President Goodluck Jonathan to “urgently provide and facilitate access to adequate healthcare for the children and women raped and impregnated by Boko Haram militants.

This followed disclosure by the authorities that about 214 children and women rescued from Islamist Boko Haram militants in north-east are pregnant.

In a statement today signed by SERAP executive director Adetokunbo Mumuni, the organisation said that, “Having survived the horrific crime of rape and sexual violence, these children and women should be spared further physical and mental torture by ensuring that they are urgently allowed access to all necessary medical treatment. Such medical treatment must be provided on a non-discriminatory basis.

“These children and women have suffered a wide range of significant physical, psychological and social consequences. Under international law, all victims of conflict, including rape victims, must receive the best care as soon as possible. The children and women are therefore entitled as of right to enjoy access to good quality medical care, including for sexual and reproductive health.

“SERAP is seriously concerned that the pregnant children and women continue to face adverse treatment or lack proper treatment and care. If urgent action is not taken, the severity of the crime against them means many of these children and women can spend the rest of their lives with full blown emotional problems, such as post-traumatic stress disorder,” the organisation said.

“By ensuring their access to urgent medical treatment and care, President Jonathan will be sending a powerful message that the rights of the children and women will be fully honoured by his government.”

“SERAP contends that children and women raped during armed conflict are within the “wounded and sick” protected by Common Article 3 Geneva Conventions. Nigeria is obliged to provide all wounded and sick victims of armed conflict with humane treatment, and access to appropriate life-saving medical care and attention required by their conditions without discrimination,” the organisation also said.

According to the organisation, “Any denial of access of these children and women to medical care and attention will be life threatening and continue to cause unbearable suffering to them, and therefore contravening Common Article 3, as well as violating principles of humanity and the dictates of public conscience.

“The Geneva Conventions imposes an absolute duty on governments to provide persons “wounded and sick” in armed conflict with complete and restorative medical care without discrimination,” the organisation stressed.

The organisation therefore urged the government to “provide regular information to the public on: the exact number of pregnant children and women now being screened by the authorities; the level of medical care and attention they are receiving; the level of their access to the minimum essential food which is nutritionally adequate and safe; basic shelter, housing and sanitation, the level of their access to essential drugs, and the plan for their rehabilitation.”

“SERAP is closely monitoring the situation of the children and women and will take appropriate legal actions nationally and internationally should the government continue to deny them their right to effective remedies, and fail to implement the above suggested recommendations,” the organisation added.

The organisation also said that, “The UN General Assembly Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women and the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action commit states including Nigeria to provide women who are subjected to violence with just and effective remedies for the harm that they have suffered. The right to a remedy for the children and women should include: access to justice; reparation for harm suffered; restitution; compensation; satisfaction; rehabilitation; and guarantees of non-repetition and prevention.”

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