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Thursday, 13 September, 2001, 18:34 GMT 19:34 UK
Ethiopian orphans to sue charity
Starving children during drought
The 1984 drought left many children orphaned
By Nita Bhalla in Addis Ababa

A group of orphaned Ethiopian boys is demanding a formal apology and compensation from a Swiss children's agency under whose care they have been living.

The 30 boys claim they have endured almost 15 years of physical, sexual and verbal abuse while under the care of Terre Des Hommes, which runs a home for Ethiopian children orphaned by the 1984 drought.

The boys, who call themselves "TDH Victims", say they now plan to hire a lawyer and take the organisation to court.

The boys, aged between 13 and 22, say they have spent almost all their lives in the orphanage.

Psychological problems

A British national who ran the Jari Children's Village from 1994 to 1997 is currently facing charges of paedophilia.

But the boys claim there were also other alleged paedophiles, which the organisation failed to report to the Ethiopian police.

The boys accuse the organisation of offering little rehabilitation, support or compensation to the children under their care and say they are now suffering from deep psychological problems.

Living in a society where boys are blamed for their own abuse, TDH victims say they have been accused of homosexuality and are now ostracised by the community.

Standing up

22-year-old Berihun Kebede says that although the boys are poor and have little chance of standing up to such a large organisation, they will do whatever it takes for the truth to prevail.

Colin Tucker, who represents Terre Des Hommes in Switzerland has denied the charges of neglect levelled against the organisation.

Mr Tucker however admitted that abuse had taken place at the orphanage, but claimed that proper rehabilitation and support was available to the abused children.

He said that the boys have been manipulated by detractors of the organisation to demand compensation.

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