Virtually all of the children a French aid group tried to fly out of Chad last week had been living with family members in villages and were not orphans of the Darfur conflict, as the group claimed, the United Nations said Thursday.
That finding was based on interviews conducted with some of the 103 children as the government and aid groups try to figure out where they came from and how to reunite them with their families. The plane carrying the children was stopped moments before it was scheduled to take off from Abéché, a small, dust-choked city that is the base of operations for dozens of aid groups working in eastern Chad.
“These were not orphans in the desert,” said Annette Rehrl, a spokeswoman for the United Nations refugee agency. “They were living with their families.”
A French aid organization, Zoé’s Ark, had claimed that the children were sick, hungry and abandoned, and had raised money from European families to rescue the children and place them temporarily in French homes. But checkups showed the children to be in good condition, Ms. Rehrl said.
“In the context of Chad these are healthy, well-fed children,” she said.