Children Rescued from Boko Haram are so Traumatized That They Forgot their Names

Children Rescued from Boko Haram are so Traumatized That They Forgot their Names

In this photo taken on Thursday, Feb. 19, 2015, Cameroon soldiers stand guard at a lookout post as they take part in operations against the Islamic extremist group Boko Haram near the village of Mabass, Cameroon. Cameroon officials say prisons are overcrowded with suspected Islamic extremists whose insurgency has spilled from Nigeria. (AP Photo/Edwin Kindzeka Moki)
In this photo taken on Thursday, Feb. 19, 2015, Cameroon soldiers stand guard at a lookout post as they take part in operations against the Islamic extremist group Boko Haram near the village of Mabass, Cameroon. AP Photo/Edwin Kindzeka Moki)

Kevin Sieff, THE WASHINGTON POST

 
NAIROBI (The Washington Post) — After years in a Boko Haram camp, the children had forgotten their native language. They couldn’t even remember their names.

They just stared past Christopher Fomunyoh when he tried to engage them. It was a rare glimpse at the human toll left by the extremists who have been fighting to create an Islamic state in Nigeria and surrounding areas.

Fomunyoh, regional director at the Washington-based National Democratic Institute, visited the children recently at an orphanage in the city of Maroua in northern Cameroon. They had been rescued by the country’s military in November from a squalid Boko Haram encampment near the border with Nigeria.

This is what he saw:

One hundred children, aged 5 to 17, without shoes in an orphanage built for 20. Hard benches for sleeping. A shortage of rice. Boys who appeared to be speaking broken Arabic, rather than one of the many languages native to Cameroon.

“There was a blankness in their eyes,” he said.

 

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