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Nigerian schoolgirls still missing a year later

Today marks a year since 200 schoolgirls were kidnapped by terror group Boko Haram.

FILE: Hundreds of people took the the street in Sandton, Johannesburg demanding the immediate release of over 200 girls in Nigeria on 8 May 2014. Picture: EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - Almost a million children have been forced to flee their homes amid a reign of terror being waged by Boko Haram in north eastern Nigeria.

In a United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef) report, the organisation says around 800,000 children are among more than a million of people who have been displaced by ongoing violence since 2009.

Boko Haram terrorists have kidnapped at least 2,000 girls and women since the start of last year, turning them into cooks, sex slaves and fighters, and sometimes killing those who refused to comply, Amnesty International said on Tuesday.

Today marks a year since 200 schoolgirls were kidnapped by the militant group in the Chibok area in the northeast of Nigeria, sparking global outrage.

To date, the girls have still not been found.

A march is expected in the capital, Abuja, today to mark the one-year anniversary of the mass kidnapping.

Boko Haram fighters have killed thousands of people in their six-year bid to create an Islamist caliphate in northeastern Nigeria.

In an open letter, Nobel Peace winner, Malala Yousafzai has called on Nigerian authorities and the international community to do more to secure the release of the missing girls.

A Boko Haram leader has said the girls have been converted to Islam and married off, fueling concerns the militants have treated them as sex slaves.

Nigeria's outgoing president Goodluck Jonathan has been widely criticised for not doing enough to end the six-year insurgency in the northeast and to secure the freedom of the girls.

Nigeria's President-elect Muhammadu Buhari vowed on Tuesday to make every effort to free the girls but admitted it was not clear whether they would ever be found.

Buhari, whose presidential election win two weeks ago was the first democratic defeat of an incumbent in Africa's biggest economy and most populous nation, said his administration would do everything it could to defeat the terror group.

"We do not know if the Chibok girls can be rescued. Their whereabouts remain unknown. As much as I wish to, I cannot promise that we can find them," he said in a statement.

"My government will do everything in its power to bring them home," added the former military ruler, who said his approach would differ from that taken by Jonathan.

Nigerian, Chadian and Niger forces have driven militants out of a string of towns in simultaneous offensives over the past few weeks.

More than 3.5 million people in Nigeria, Cameroon, Niger and Chad have been affected by the insurgency, and face months of food shortages as a result, the Famine Early Warning Systems Network said last month.

Additional information by Reuters.

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