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103 children from Abéché return to their families

N’Djamena, 18 March 2008 - Four and a half months after the failed attempt by a French NGO, Zoe’s Ark, to fly them out of Chad to France, 103 children have begun their journey home. Eighty-three of the 81 boys and 22 girls left the Abéché orphanage in Eastern Chad where they had been put up by UNICEF and the Ministry of Social Action since 26 October 2007.

The eighty-three children from the Adré region got on a bus and two 4X4s heading for Adré 175 km away, not far from the Sudan border town, where their families were awaiting them. A mattress, a mosquito net, a bicycle and a bag holding clothes and toys were handed to each child. The homecoming was a moment of profound joy for both parents and children reunited after more than four months of separation.

On 21 March, a second group of 13 children will leave Abéché to join their families in the Wadi-Fira region. Only a small group of six children whose parents have also been identified will be left in Abéché and will join their families very soon.

“UNICEF is delighted about this reunion and the fact that these children can move back to a normal life,” said UNICEF’s Representative in Chad, Mariam Coulibaly N’Diaye. “But for us this is not the end of the story – we are going to watch these children closely and work with our partners to help the millions of children of the region who need us.”

Thanks to the support of Dubai Cares, Spain, Japan and of the French Committee for UNICEF, about 5,000 children from the villages these 103 children originated from will enjoy programs which include assistance with nutrition, water and sanitation, education and protection. Assistance to the most vulnerable families will also be set up and should help generate revenue for the families who need it the most.

UNICEF and its partners will place special emphasis on education and ensure that the rehabilitation of school infrastructure, as well as the distribution of educational materials, is done without delay.

UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.

For further information, please contact:
Geoffrey Keele, UNICEF Media, Tel + 212-326-7583, Email; gkeele@unicef.org





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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