The United Nations has said it is rehabilitating some of the schoolgirls abducted by Boko Haram, who later escaped.
In a statement on the UN websites, the United Nations Population Fund said, in collaboration with the World Health Organisation and the United Nations Children’s Fund, it was setting up clinics and providing health screening for any of the girls coming back, as well as educating those who had escaped.
The representative of the UNFPA in Nigeria, Ms. Rati Ndhlovu, was quoted as saying, “The girls are running from home and they have no menstruation pads and have nothing to use. They need water. They need the basic things that keep a woman dignified.”
The statement further said the UNFPA had distributed much-needed essentials including “dignity kits” that include sanitarian napkins.
The UNFPA added that it was educating the girls about healthy timing of pregnancies.
Ndhlovu added, “The girls are asked to question becoming pregnant during times of insecurity. It may not be the best time to be pregnant when you can hardly sleep in your house, when you are running all the time.
“With most health clinics closed and a shortage of health workers, the UN and its partners are leading and supporting coordination efforts to ensure synergies around interventions. In that regard, the UN is working with local non-governmental organisations and engaging the Red Cross on logistical matters.”
The fund also said it was training traditional religious leaders on how to work with their communities to address certain challenges. It added that programmes are aimed at changing attitudes so that the returning girls are not stigmatised and shunned.
“Initially, the girls didn’t want to hear about school or go back to school because they were at school when this happened to them, but then they attended a vigorous psychosocial clinic programme, and at the end, they all wanted to go back to school. Now, they are ready to go back to school,” the UN official said.
According to the statement, another session was held for men and boys of the communities to involve them in creating a safe space for the girls to return to.
Men and boys were said to have discussed ways to ensure that girls are not abused and that when they come back they are accepted. Also, a separate group of men were reportedly championing for the rights of the girl child in terms of education and health.
Ndhlovu said, “The UN family has not forgotten the girls.”
She added that restoring the dignity and integrity of returning schoolgirls is instrumental in reintegrating the girls back into a “safe space” in society.