You’ve almost certainly heard of Nigeria’s Chibok Girls. The 276 female students received worldwide attention in April 2014 after they were kidnapped by Boko Haram, one of the world’s deadliest terrorist groups.
On Sunday, the Nigerian government announced 82 of the girls had been released in exchange for five militant commanders, a move hailed by parents and officials, and reported across the international media. But in truth the Chibok Girls are a drop in the ocean. Human rights groups estimate thousands of men, women and children have been abducted by Boko Haram during the group’s eight-year insurgency. These missing people have received little attention outside of their communities.
Ryan Cummings, director of South African consultancy Signal Risk, believes international attention has often missed the bigger picture with its narrow focus on the Chibok Girls. “The focus should be on the fact that Boko Haram has kidnapped thousands of people and we still do not have an accurate account of how many are still held captive,” he said. Estimating even a ballpark figure for the total number is difficult.
Boko Haram has carried out at least 41 mass abductions since the start of 2014, according to a record kept by human rights group Amnesty International. In 2015, Amnesty put the number abducted at more than 2,000 — but given the armed group’s ongoing campaign of terror, that number has almost certainly risen since. Now, Amnesty just estimates the figure to be in the unknown thousands.