80 Traumatized Children Who Fled Boko Haram Can No Longer Speak, Remember Names

( [email protected] ) Mar 11, 2015 02:00 PM EDT
About 80 children who were rescued from a Boko Haram camp in Cameroon were so traumatized by the experience they are unable to speak or remember their parents, their homes, or their names.
Tom Gowon, 9, in a brown jacket, stands with his fellow refugees at Baga Sola camp in Chad. Attacks by Boko Haram have displaced thousands of children. (Photo: Tonny Onyulo)

About 80 children who fled Boko Haram, the deadly terrorist group affiliated with the Islamic State, are so traumatized from their experience they are unable to speak or remember their own names, according to an NGO report

In November, dozens of children were rescued from a Boko Haram camp in Cameroon, where the group has extended its operations in Nigeria, reports the BBC.

According to aid official Dr. Christopher Fomunyoh, a director for the U.S.-based National Democratic Institute, the children were indoctrinated with Boko Haram's extremist ideology for so long, that they completely forgot who they were and where they were from. Additionally, the children, ranging from 5 to 18 years old, were completely unable to speak English, French or any other local languages.

"They've lost touch with their parents," Dr. Fomunyoh said after visiting the camp. "They've lost touch with people in their villages, they're not able to articulate, to help trace their relationships, they can't even tell you what their names are."

Boko Haram, the group responsible for kidnapping over 200 Nigerian girls last April, recently declared itself to be affiliated with ISIS, which has overtaken large portions of Iraq and Syria for the past year.

Since 2009, Boko Haram has terrorized large areas of Nigeria in an effort to establish an Islamic caliphate in the region.  In 2014 alone, the group  killed 9,000 people and displaced over 1 million.

Thousands of refugees, many of them women and children, have fled to Cameroon, Chad and Niger. Currently, about 17,000 people are in Chad, according to the United Nations.

"There are several camps around here housing many children who have lost their parents in attacks," said Guy Nanhousngue, a Chadian relief worker who said children comprise about half of the Nigerians coming to the Baga Sola refugee camp on the shores of Lake Chad."We're registering more than 50 children every day."

9 year old Tom Gowon, who experienced an assault Baga, Nigeria, in early January, was among those who lost his parents at the hands of the militant group.

"I was lucky because I was not killed," he said, according to USA Today.  "But they shot and killed my father. My mother was kidnapped by the militants."

"I don't think I have a bright future in my country," added Ali Hasana, 12, who escaped from Baga after witnessing the militant group execute his parents.  "I have no education. I have no parents. This is because there's no peace in my country."

Yesterday, members of the jihadist group attacked the town of Ngamdu in Nigeria's northeast Borno state, killing about a dozen people. The town, which has been hit several times by militants, lies on the border of Borno and Yobe states.

Earlier in the week, two two suicide bombers blew themselves up at a checkpoint at Beneshiek, killing over 50 people. Then, on Wednesday, a female suicide bomber killed at least 17 people after detonating her device in Maiduguri, capital of Nigeria's Borno state.

With the assistance of Chad and Niger, Nigeria has recaptured several key towns in the last few weeks and have reclaimed large areas of Adamawa and Yobe states.

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, who seeks re-election March 28, has also promised to launch a counteroffensive to recapture territories under Boko Haram's control. Last month, he delayed the election by six weeks, citing security concerns.