Children From Chad Allegedly Abducted by Zoe's Ark to Remain in Orphanage for Now

The UN Children's Fund says 103 children in Chad who it says were abducted by the French Charity, Zoe's Ark, will be kept in an orphanage in the town of Abeche, until their families are located. Lisa Schlein reports for VOA that UNICEF says aid agencies are looking after the children.

The UN Children's Fund says the children will remain in the orphanage in Abeche while the judicial process gets underway.

Six workers from the French Charity, Zoe's Ark, are charged with attempted kidnapping. Three French journalists and six European members of the group's aircrew also face charges.

Last week, the plane carrying the children was stopped moments before it was to take off from Abeche, and the children were rescued. The plane was going to fly to France where workers from Zoe's Ark said the children would be placed temporarily with French families.

Zoe's Ark said the children were orphans from Sudan's conflict-ridden province of Darfur, a claim rejected by UNICEF and two other international agencies.

UNICEF Spokeswoman, Miranda Eels, says a team of social workers is looking after the children. "All their needs in terms of health and nutrition, water, toys, medicine, they are all being attended to," she said. "Preliminary results show that they are healthy with no sign of malnutrition or trauma. Six children have been treated for minor injuries, such as small wounds. Five have haven treated for encephalitis and four for fever."

The children include 21 girls and 82 boys. Most are aged 3-5. The youngest is about 1 year old, and the oldest about 10.

Eeles says interviews with the children indicate most probably come from Chadian villages near the cities of Adre and Tine alongside the Chad-Sudan border. She says several aid workers plan to go to this area next week to seek more information about the children's background. She says they will speak to community and village leaders to learn more about the children's situation and to clear up their nationality.

"That particular border appears at times to be quite superficial depending on the security situation," she noted. "There is quite a lot of movement between Chad and Sudan. So, there are children from Sudan living in Chad. There are children from Chad living in Sudan. The plan for next week is to try and determine exactly where these children are from. But, at the moment, we are not entirely sure exactly if they are Chadian or Sudanese."

Meanwhile, the International Committee of the Red Cross says it has visited the foreigners detained by the Chadian authorities. It says the detainees have written Red Cross messages to their families.


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