The Lost Boy

A BOY sits silently amid the raucous hubbub of the playground. Other children laugh as they chase balls or race around the grass, but Daniel Odera, if that is his name, is quiet.

No-one knows where he came from, or even his age. He might be six or he might be seven.

He is one of the 'watoto wa mungu' - children of God - as they have been nicknamed in Swahili by the local police.

They were seized from a series of Nairobi addresses during the miracle babies investigation.

Self-styled archbishop Gilbert Deya is staying in Scotland while the authorities in his Kenyan homeland try to extradite him on child trafficking charges.

The minister claims he can make childless couples have babies. However, police say he is the mastermind behind an international child smuggling ring.

Meanwhile, 21 children have been seized in Kenya as part of the investigation into the scandal.

But they are rapidly becoming the lost children.

No-one has claimed them and they live in limbo while they wait for Kenya's creaking legal system to run its course.

Daniel was one of 11 taken from the home of Eddah and Michael Odera.

The couple are awaiting trial on charges of child theft. Police believe he was destined for a childless couple abroad.

Today, Daniel never strays far from the five other Odera children who remain at Nairobi Children's Home. The rest have been dispersed around other institutions.

Ask Daniel if he remembers his former home or parents and his eyes are blank. He offers only a confused shrug.

In her cramped office, the manager of the home, Catherine Maina, says he has suffered more than the other children.

'He is very quiet. He doesn't talk and from his eyes he looks like he has gone through a real trauma,' she says.

'He is not like the others. He doesn't really play. He is trying, but it is difficult for a child of six or seven to articulate what he is feeling.'

In all, 21 children were seized by police last August. As well as the Odera children, nine were taken from the home of Mary Deya.

Five people, including Mrs Deya, are awaiting trial. The hearing is due to take place in March.

Her husband, Gilbert Deya, claims to have made women pregnant through the power of prayer, before bringing them to Kenya where they gave birth to babies in Nairobi's slum clinics.

Police in Kenya believe he was at the centre of an elaborate child trafficking ring which operated for five years.

Women from Britain would arrive at the clinics with babies they claimed had been born en route, according to evidence collected by police.

Daniel may have been one of the lucky ones - found before he could be whisked abroad.

But as he wanders among the rusted slides, washing lines and litter of the playground he doesn't look so lucky now. He just looks lost.

At first hopes were high that all 21 would be reunited quickly with their biological parents.

So far, one has been returned to Mrs Deya after DNA tests showed a match and a second was found to belong to a close member of her family.

That leaves 19 watoto wa mungu waiting to be identified at the home.

In the days after they were seized, 53 couples trooped through the whitewashed bungalows of Nairobi Children's Home to lay a claim.

Miss Maini says it was a very difficult time. 'It was really emotionally draining both for us, the children and parents.

'Each parent came expecting to meet their child and at times, three or four sets of parents would try to claim each child.

'They would have photographs that looked nothing like the children here. It was a very confusing time for all the children.'

After an agonising wait of two months, all the DNA tests came back negative. Not one of the parents proved a genetic match with the children they were claiming.

The result is that no-one knows where the babies and toddlers came from, their real names, or how long they must stay in care.

NAIROBI Children's Home has a good reputation - despite its peeling paintwork and broken-down climbing frames - but Miss Maina says it should offer nothing more than a temporary stay.

At the moment, Daniel cannot even go to school.

'It is bad for any child,' says Miss Maina. 'The law says that children should be in institutions for three months - and at most six months.

'Children's homes are not the best option. These children should be in families, whether biological, foster or adoptive families.'

The other children at the home have lost parents to Aids, or simply been dumped by young parents who couldn't cope with struggling to survive and bringing them up.

Kenyan newspapers report babies abandoned in public places every day, hidden in dustbins or left on termite mounds, where they will at least be safe from elephants.

In Nairobi, children scouring rubbish dumps for food have found dozens of foetuses wrapped in plastic bags - the tragic leftovers of the city's backstreet abortion clinics.

This is a nation awash with unwanted babies.

Police are increasingly concerned that the watoto wa mungu may have been sold, rather than stolen.

Gideon Kibunjah, spokesman for Kenyan police CID, said the miracle babies scandal had revealed a hidden trade in babies.

He said: 'We have advertised the dates of birth of these children without parents coming forward to claim them after the first 53, so there is always a possibility that some of the parents consented to giving up their babies.

'For some of the parents it is a better option than throwing the kid into a pit latrine.'

He said the going rate was as little as 2000 Kenyan shillings, about £15.

One day, Daniel might find himself back in a family, who can provide him with the love he clearly craves and deserves.

But for now he must live in limbo waiting for the miracle baby criminal trial - scheduled for next month - to end.

But even if he can be adopted or placed with a foster family, he will probably never know his biological parents, where he came from, hisbirthday or even his real name.

He and the other watoto wa mungu are truly the lost children.