Earlier this week, 16 people linked to Zoe’s Ark were charged in Chad with extortion and child abduction amid allegations that 103 sick orphans the suspects claimed they were evacuating from neighbouring Darfur had been lured or abducted from Chad. The children had been due to be housed with French families, which had each paid requested donations of about £1,400 to the charity.
The Save the Children spokesman said the confusion over the names of the charities among speakers of Arabic – one of Chad’s two official languages – could have detrimental effects on Save the Children’s ability to operate in the country. An angry crowd gathered outside Save the Children’s compound in the eastern Chad town of Abeche when news of the arrests emerged last week.
“This is not just us being precious about our brand,” he said. “In all situations like this your understanding with local people is paramount.”
He said Save the Children, which has been active in Chad for 20 years, had had no meaningful knowledge of Zoe’s Ark before the scandal broke and was unclear whether the name confusion had been a deliberate ploy. “Put it this way: there are huge raised eyebrows here about why Zoe’s Ark chose the name Children’s Rescue,” he said.
Third Sector was unable to contact Zoe’s Ark, but a spokesman for the charity told the The Daily Telegraph that the organisation, which was set up after the Asian tsunami disaster in 2004, had “never tried to mislead anyone”.