Eighty-two Nigerian school girls were reunited with their families in the capital city of Abuja today, after being released earlier this month from more than three years in Boko Haram captivity.
“I am really happy today, I am Christmas and New Year, I am very happy and I thank God,” one mother, Godiya Joshua, told the AP after finding her daughter Esther.
The Chibok women and girls are part of a larger group of 276, all of whom were abducted by the Boko Haram from their dormitories in the dead of night in April 2014. On May 7, international aid organizations brokered a deal with the extremist group, offering up five of its military leaders in exchange for the 82 girls.
Nigeria’s government has said it will make more exchanges to win the freedom of the 113 still being held.
“Our joy is never complete until we see the complete 113, because one Chibok girl matters to all Chibok people,” one parent told the outlet.
The captured girls quickly became an international cause célèbre, inspiring the creation of the Bring Back Our Girls campaign backed by Michelle Obama. Still, Nigerian psychologist Fatima Akilu, who heads an organization that helps Boko Haram survivors, told NPR that the girls are symbolic of a dire situation that continues to plague northeastern Nigeria.
“A lot of people are not aware of the scale of the problem,” she said. “Resources should be scaled up to include the voiceless victims that don’t really have this big megaphone that has highlighted their plight.” Human Rights Watch found that hundreds of other children remain missing in the region, though the Chibok girls have been given the most attention.
For now, the newly released girls must remain under the care of the government while they’re given medical and psychological evaluations, and eventually, rehabilitation and reintegration training. In October of 2016, 21 of the captured girls were released, each of whom is still being examined by the government.