DUBAI // An 18-month-old boy abandoned last week by a woman outside a supermarket in Hatta appears healthy and is being cared for at a centre for abused women and children. The child, now at the Dubai Foundation for Women and Children, is undergoing medical examinations and is "happy" and "playful", an organisation spokeswoman said yesterday. Children found abandoned but without outward signs of abuse generally are taken to a specialist ward at Al Wasl Hospital. The spokeswoman described the child as having been "neglected" and said the case was unusual because the centre, unlike Al Wasl, specialises in helping victims of domestic violence. A quarter of the refuge's work involves child abuse cases. "This is a unique and sensitive case because we have the child. Usually abandoned children stay in Al Wasl ward 16, where they have a specialist ward, and we deal with those who are victims of domestic violence ... you can say the child has been 'neglected'," said the spokeswoman. "The police are taking the lead on this and they brought him here." She added that although the boy had been with the organisation since Thursday, workers still had not succeeded in determining the child's nationality. Dubai Police say they have made the investigation a priority. "This is an extreme case," said a CID spokesman, Zuhair Haroon, "abandoning children is almost like murdering them, so we treat these cases very seriously." However, he said, the police still had not developed any solid leads since finding the child. Officials said the case was complicated because of the logistics of caring for the boy, even if someone is prosecuted. The child could be placed with foster parents, Emirati parents or repatriated in his home country. The boy was left inside a shopping trolley outside a supermarket in Hatta last Thursday. Video footage shows a woman dressed in traditional clothing, her head covered, leaving the boy. Recently there have been several well-publicised incidents of children being abandoned. Last month a day-old baby was found inside a wooden box in Sharjah, wrapped in a blanket and suffering from dehydration. And in March, three other children were abandoned in Sharjah. One was a four-month-old girl found dead in Al Khan. A psychologist for the Dubai Foundation for Women and Children suggested that the system of laqeet, in which abandoned children placed with Emirati families become Emiratis themselves, could lead desperate women to leave their children in public. In Islam, orphaned and abandoned children occupy a special place in tradition, and caring for an abandoned child is considered a highly pious act. firstname.lastname@example.org
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