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RWANDAN KIDS GET MEDICAL CARE IN FRANCE

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A young boy chewed pensively on a cookie, eyes staring at the line of stretchers on the floor. A little girl with cruel machete wounds on her head pressed closely against a reporter's leg and began to weep silently.

These children are survivors of Rwanda's massacres, a savagery that has left an estimated 200,000 dead in the past two months, most-ly civilians.They were among the 31 children flown to France on Saturday for medical treatment, a handful among countless thousands of children whose innocence has been a-brupt-ly cut short by civil war and ethnic hatred.

The latest round began April 6 with the death of President Juvenal Habyarimana in a mysterious plane crash, setting off renewed fighting between the army and the rebel Rwandan Patriotic Front. But most of the bloodshed has resulted from a wave of massacres in which government-backed militias, sometimes with army troops, slaughtered thousands.

The rebels have seized about half of the country and are fighting for Kigali, the capital, and Gitarama, 30 miles to the west, which is now the seat of Rwanda's government.

The 31 children brought in from rebel-held areas around Byumba and Gayeni in the north, included both Hutu and Tutsi children, according to Dr. Annie Faure, a physician for Medecins du Monde (Doctors of the World).

The children arrived at Kigali airport in two groups, escorted by rebel soldiers. The rebels control the airport and parts of Kigali.

All of those chosen need very complicated surgery and intense postoperative care, something impossible to provide in Rwanda's war-weary hospitals, according to Dr. Claude Moncorge, a Parisian who headed the evacuation effort.

"Some of these children no longer have the ability to speak," Faure said. "They are entirely traumatized. They have seen so much they have nightmares and scream in the night."

Some are so shellshocked they are afraid even to ask for a drink when they are thirsty, so the doctors and nurses must offer them water frequently, Faure said.

Watching these children, ranging in age from 3 weeks to 14 years old, is heart-wrenching. Their faces look so pure, so innocent. All of them seem frail, clearly as wounded in soul as they are in body.

They have suffered bullet wounds, cuts, lost limbs and shrapnel wounds. One young girl's Achilles' tendon was severed by a machete. Another 5-year-old's lip was sliced off.

The only exception was "Juliette," a 3-week-old infant who was found clinging to her dead mother's breast and taken to the hospital operated by Medecins du Monde. The baby was uninjured, but doctors included her in the evacuation because of malnourishment and poor general condition.