CAPE TOWN, South Africa–
When Zephany Nurse was snatched from her sleeping mother as an infant, her biological parents thought they would never see their daughter again. Now, 17 years later, the family discovered their daughter was raised mere miles away from their home in Cape Town.
The woman accused of kidnapping Zephany raised the child as her own.
“She really loved the child,” a neighbor told CNN. “The type of life the child had was a great life.”
Years after she was taken from the hospital where she was born, Zephany attended the same school as her biological sister. The girls looked so much alike that police performed DNA testing, revealing Zephany’s true identity.
“Just from the biological parents’ side, is that firstly they know that their child is not dead,” said Minister of Social Development Albert Fritz. “She’s not missing anymore, but there are other issues that they must now deal with. It’s not easy saying there is closure, there are open ended issues they are dealing with.”
As Zephany is only months from becoming a legal adult, it will be up to her to decide where she wishes to live and who she wants to recognize as family. Until the case is closed, Zephany will remain in the care of the Social Development Department.
“My only hope came alive and that’s all I can say,” said Zephany’s biological father, Morne Nurse. “I’m over the moon. Very happy. Extremely happy. My daughter is back, and that’s it.”
After almost seven months, Nigeria’s government finally reached an agreement with the terrorist group which kidnapped approximately 200 schoolgirls. On October 17, officials announced that a ceasefire would commence and the girls will be released.
The Islamic militant group, Boko Haram, kidnapped the girls from their school dormitory in the northeast town of Chibok. A few of the girls have since been released or have managed to escape, while most remain in captivity.
Their capture sparked international protests. The hashtag #BringBackOurGirls circulated with thousands of followers, encouraging sympathetic persons worldwide to write and call local governments to bring attention to the crisis.
Meanwhile, officials prepare not only for the girls’ release, but plan to deal with the consequences of their endeavor – both physical and psychological.
“What is happening to the girls is an open secret: sexual abuse. We are preparing based on this assumption, which is almost a given,” Dr. Ratidzai Ndhlovu, the country representative of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), told BuzzFeed.
Specialists like Dr. Nihinlola Mabogunje, the country director of Ipas, an international health NGO, stressed the importance of continually assisting the girls and their families to ease their way back into society. The traditional culture of rural Nigeria often associates great stigmas with victims of sexual abuse. Officials are hoping to quench such imputations before they begin.
“Let the family be counseled on traumatic counseling for them to understand that the girls will be helped when they get out,” Mabogunje said in an interview with BuzzFeed.
For several weeks, health officials, United Nations agencies, and international organizations have been developing plans for helping the girls heal physically and emotionally.