UMM AL QAIWAIN // In the five years since his father abandoned him as a 12-month-old baby, the only family the little boy knew were the staff of a hospital childcare centre.
Nevertheless, he flourished; he made friends, and learnt to speak five languages from the children of various nationalities cared for at the centre in Umm al Qaiwain.
Now, at the age of six, the little boy's life has changed again. Thanks to detective work by the police community affairs department, his father has been traced to Oman and reunited with the child he left behind.
The man abandoned his son while separated from his wife in an acrimonious divorce dispute, and facing arrest and imprisonment on charges of having unpaid debts.
"The father was determined not to have his son raised by his divorced mother," Col Sheikh Rashid al Mualla, the police director general, said yesterday.
"When he learnt that he was losing the financial cases in court and would be arrested soon, he took the baby to the hospital and left him ."
The community affairs department, formed this year to handle social and humanitarian matters, spent more than two weeks investigating the case and searching for the boy's father, who they believed had been released from jail.
Based on information from authorities at the hospital where the child was left, the department managed to track him down.
"After studying the circumstances in which the baby was abandoned, the police assured the parent that they only needed him to collect his son and there would be no further criminal charges against him when he returned to the UAE," Col al Mualla said.
Police discussed the matter with the father and agreed to reunite him with his son. The mother was also contacted, and it was agreed that both parents should meet the boy.
He was collected from the hospital's childcare centre, his home for almost his entire life, and handed over to his parents.
The question of custody will be decided in Oman, where his mother and father now both live.
The UAQ Medical District was responsible for the boy's wellbeing in the childcare centre, which provides basic needs such as medical services. Rashid Obaid al Shehhi, the deputy director, was happy that the boy was being returned to his family because he has been missing his father's love and parental care.
"It is our first reunion success story," he said. "We wish him the best in life with his family."
The boy's stay at the centre was not without its benefits. He learnt to speak Arabic, English, Hindi, Tagalog and Sinhala as a result of the education he received, and through interacting with children of several nationalities at the hospital, Mr al Shehhi said.
The family is now processing documents so that their son can join them in Oman. The police sought a signed pledge from the father to take good care of the boy and have him educated, Col al Mualla said.
The issue of abandoned children has become a hot topic in the Northern Emirates, with at least one such incident coming to light every few months. The body of a five-month-old boy was found abandoned near a mosque in the Karama area of Ajman last month. Police are still searching for his parents.
A baby girl was found dead near the new aquarium in Sharjah last year. Doctors at Al Qasimi Hospital could not determine at the time whether the seven-month-old girl had still been alive when she was abandoned, but hospital sources said there was no evidence of violence.
Police have occasionally been successful in apprehending parents of abandoned babies. Three of the parents of two babies abandoned in a mosque in Sharjah were arrested in
August, and Ajman police have detained the parents of a baby girl found abandoned in a basket this year.