The world is already aware that many of the women and girls abducted by Boko Haram have been sexually assaulted and forced to convert to Islam and then into marriage. Now it is being reported that some 214 out of the 234 women and girls who were recently rescued by Nigerian authorities are visibly pregnant, the International Business Times reports.
Nigerian authorities said in late April that they had freed nearly 240 women and girls from Nigeria’s Sambisa Forest who were being held captive by Boko Haram. It is still unknown whether the freed hostages are the schoolgirls who were abducted last year in Chibok, Nigeria, in April, although it is considered unlikely. That kidnapping sparked global interest after protesters used the social media campaign #BringBackOurGirls to draw attention to the crisis.
The International Business Times explained how, in addition to needing prenatal and postpartum care, the freed hostages are also enduring “severe psychological trauma” as a result of having been held in captivity for so long.
Amnesty International said that Boko Haram forces its captives into sexual slavery and trains them to fight, while a United Nations executive told a news outlet that the aid organization had seen more than 16,000 pregnancies and deliveries take place in northeast Nigeria in the past year—the region where Boko Haram conducts much of its terror campaign.
Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, an executive with the United Nations Population Fund, explained how the medical and psychological needs of recently freed pregnant women and children are often overlooked. “We will always have pregnant women, but nobody segregates the needs of the pregnant women, which are very important and different from the needs of the average community,” Osotimehin explained. “We look after them and ensure they get antenatal care and that they deliver properly, and that they even get cesarean section when necessary.”