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Chad: Joint action by the ICRC, UNHCR and UNICEFin behalf of the 103 Abéché children

01-11-2007 News Release 07/109

Abéché – 1.11.2007 – Since the events of 25 October that led to the arrest of members of the “Children Rescue/Arche de Zoé” organization, the staff and partner organizations of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) have been working to meet the needs of the 103 children currently living in the Abéché orphanage.

Given the circumstances of the children’s arrival in Abéché, it was necessary to take swift action and ensure that suitable accommodation and care were provided. With this aim, and taking the children’s ages into account, the ICRC, UNHCR and UNICEF suggested to the Chadian authorities that they provide food, bedding, clothing and hygiene items, as well as assistance in the areas of health care and sanitation, with support from partner organizations (such as the Red Cross of Chad).

Paramount for these organizations is the best interests of the boys and girls. Staff therefore spent the first days after the children’s arrival listening to them in order to learn as many things as possible that could indicate what had happened and to help them, as far as possible, to resume living normal children’s lives.

Individual conversations took place over several days with the 21 girls and 82 boys aged 1 to 10 years, some of whom were unable to provide basic information because of their age. The information gathered suggested that 85 of them were from villages in the border area between Chad and Sudan near the towns of Adré and Tiné.

During their discussions with humanitarian workers, 91 of the children referred to a family environment consisting of at least one adult whom they considered a parent. Talks are continuing with the 12 others to obtain information that could lead to progress in the search for the families and/or close relations.

The humanitarian organizations aiding the children are maintaining a close watch on their general well-being and on their health in particular, which for the time being is not a cause for concern. Some of t he children have been treated for minor injuries.

Staff from the ICRC, UNHCR and UNICEF, their partner organizations and representatives of the Chadian authorities are continuing their efforts to piece together the background, status and identity of the children in order to adapt their work case by case and according to the specific needs and situation of each of them. This work is in support of the authorities and based on the principles of impartiality and non-discrimination.

The work, which must focus on maintaining the health and well-being of the young children, is time-consuming and laborious because of the number of children involved, their young age, the importance of obtaining as much information as possible as quickly as possible, and the situation in the area.

The information gathered was forwarded to the Chadian authorities under whose responsibility the children have been placed. In the coming days and weeks the ICRC, UNHCR and UNICEF, with support from their partner organizations, will carry on with this work in order to help find a quick and suitable way of enabling all 103 children to return to games, family life and the other concerns of a child.

For further information, please contact:
  ICRC: Inah Kaloga, tel. +235 620 10 05
  UNHCR: Annette Rehrl, tel. +235 638 51 95
  UNICEF: Jean-François Basse, tel. +235 679 01 12