World's largest orphanage? Nigeria plans home for 8,000 children affected by Boko Haram

William Watkinson

Officials in the Nigerian state of Borno say they will build a huge orphanage for at least 8,000 children who have suffered at the hands of Boko Haram.

Possibly the world's largest orphanage, the facility is being built in the north of Nigeria, which has borne the brunt of the Islamist extremists' murderous rampages and kidnappings.

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Three Nigerian states - Adamawa, Borno and Yobe - have been under a state of emergency since May 2013, Borno alone is dealing with 160,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) due to Boko Haram's violence.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees estimated in 2015 that more than 1.5 million people have been displaced by the atrocities committed by the Islamist group, which aims to create a state in northeastern Nigeria ruled by its version of Sharia law.

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Borno state's Commissioner for Women Affairs, Hajiya Fanta Baba-Shehu, expressed her plans to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in New York.

"We have about 7,000 to 8,000 unaccompanied children and Borno State Government is trying to build an orphanage home – a big one, a huge one – in Borno State," she said.

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"The Ministry of Women Affairs will coordinate the affairs of the orphanage home. All our social workers, within and outside the country will help.

"Within the provision of the 2017 budget, by God's grace, the structure will be completed and all the special needs of the unaccompanied children and girls will be taken into consideration.

"Those that trauma has affected are going to be taken care of."

Abduction of schoolgirls

In April 2014, the extremist group abducted 276 girls from a school in Chibok within the state, which also suffers from widespread poverty and famine fuelled by Boko Haram's savagery.

Borno is believed to have around 78,000 people living in famine-like conditions, according to the UN-agency Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

This is due to security concerns, meaning many markets are still closed, while food and fuel prices remain high due to weak currency and civil insecurity.

Baba-Shehu said she had met with donor agencies and partners working to promote humanitarian aid and to respond to the crisis in Borno.

She said: "We expect most of the IDPs to be going home by May because we have a special ministry of RRR – that is Reconstruction, Rehabilitation and Resettlement of the victims.

"We are taking them back and we have taken the women and children into consideration."

Baba-Shehu added that the state has recently inaugurated 432 resettlement houses for Boko Haram victims, 13 primary and junior secondary schools, a general hospital, five primary healthcare centres, irrigation items, mobile fish ponds and livestock for returning female IDPs.

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