Today, Nigeria's military claimed a success in its effort to reduce that number, after it reportedly freed 80 women and children from a far-flung village in the country's northeast.
The 42 women and 38 children were rescued on Tuesday after soldiers infiltrated a Boko Haram meeting in Gangere village, Army spokesman Col. Sani Kukasheka Usman told the Associated Press. More than 40 militants were killed in the operation.
Thursday's operation is just the latest military effort to root out the radical Muslim group entrenched in northern Nigeria, forcing more than 2 million people to flee their homes. In the last two years, a ramped-up military campaign has succeeded in pushing Boko Haram from its strongholds, but fighters remain active in Borno state, as well as neighboring countries like Cameroon.
So far this year, the militants have carried out a string of suicide attacks, including at refugee camps, and deadly village raids. Nigeria has claimed to have saved thousands of captives from the group, but often these figures are impossible to verify and critics have accused the military of exaggerating its successes.
More than two years after Boko Haram abducted 200 girls from Chibok school in Borno state in 2014, the military managed to rescue two of the teenage students this spring. The government also secured video footage of the abducted girls, showing proof of life for the first time since they were captured.