Memories of Boko Haram’s murderous spree in his Nigerian hometown haunt Tom Gowon, 9, as he sits on a patch of grass at a refugee camp, sipping steaming porridge from a plastic mug.
“I was lucky because I was not killed,” said Gowon, recalling the assault on Baga, Nigeria, in early January.
“But they shot and killed my father. My mother was kidnapped by the militants.”
Children such as Gowon bear the brunt of Boko Haram’s rampage since its fighters kidnapped more than 200 schoolgirls last year and conquered enough territory to declare a caliphate that covers one-fifth of Nigeria.
Where the militants have met resistance, they’ve torched villages and left piles of corpses in their wake.
“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 make up about half of the Nigerians coming to the Baga Sola refugee camp on the shores of Lake Chad, which separates the two countries.
“We’re registering more than 50 children every day.”