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Zoe’s Ark children reunited with their families in Chad after five months

UNICEF Image: Zoe’s Ark, Chad
© UNICEF Chad/2008
Children from the Zoe’s Ark orphanage wait to be transported from Abeche, eastern Chad, to be reunited with their families.

NEW YORK, USA, 19 March 2008 – Last Friday morning, after five months spent in an orphanage in eastern Chad, 83 of 103 children known to the world as the ‘Zoe’s Ark orphans’ began their journey home. Most of the remaining 20 children are expected to be reunited with their families this week.

The children had been caught up in a charity adoption scandal that rocked the Central African nation last year, when the French non-governmental organization Zoe’s Ark attempted to fly them out of Chad to France. The children were reportedly separated from their families under false pretenses.

UNICEF Image: Zoe’s Ark, Chad
© UNICEF Chad/2008
UNICEF Representative in Chad Mariam Coulibaly Ndiaye with one of the Zoe’s Ark children before his departure to Adre.

During a ceremony held at the orphanage in Abeche, UNICEF Representative in Chad Mariam Coulibaly Ndiaye expressed gratitude for the safe return of the children. Chad’s Minister of Social Affairs, Carmel Ngarbatinan, thanked the partners who have worked with her ministry on the children’s behalf.

UNICEF, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the World Food Programme, the International Committee of the Red Cross, the Chadian Red Cross and Save the Children UK have all supported the government’s efforts.

Keeping families intact

UNICEF staff accompanied the children on their bus ride back to the town of Adre. Trucks carrying toys and bicycles, as well as bedding and clothing to be given to their families, also made the trip.

UNICEF Image: Zoe’s Ark, Chad
© UNICEF Chad/2008
Children thank volunteer workers as they leave the orphanage in Abeche.

Upon their arrival in Adre, the children’s families welcomed them with open arms and tears of joy. To help these and thousands of other families remain intact, international donors – including the Governments of Spain and Japan, the Dubai Cares partnership and the French National Committee for UNICEF – have pledged financial support for an integrated child nutrition, education and protection programme in the region.

Reuniting the Zoe’s Ark children with their families “is an important step for us, but not the final one,” noted UNICEF Protection Officer Jean Francois Basse. “I would say the real challenge has just begun.”




14 March 2008: UNICEF correspondent Chris Niles reports on the reunification of the ‘Zoe’s Ark orphans’ with their families in Chad.
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