"Children [in eastern Chad] never have enough to eat," opposition politician Ngarlejy Yorongar told IRIN, accusing the government of neglect.
The government says it offers free emergency care in its hospitals, and has set up nutrition and health centres but Yorongar said health centres are rare, and when they exist, they lack medicines. "The government has the means to help children, but not the will," he said.
Save the Children estimates that at least half the 180,000 displaced Chadians and 230,000 Sudanese refugees in eastern Chad are children. "What the displaced, refugee and local populations have access to now is mainly provided by local NGOs and international aid agencies," said Aurélie Lamazière, of Save the Children UK's emergencies department.
"I just find the reaction to the 103 children by the French and Chadian authorities and the press slightly disproportionate compared with the tens of thousands of children who are also in need of some sort of assistance," Lamazière told IRIN.
Chad's UNICEF representative, Mariam Coulibaly Ndiaye, said the state of education in Chad was deplorable.
"When you go to a village, sometimes there is no school. When there are schools, there are not enough teachers. When communities get together to find teachers, they have not been trained," she said.
On average, 60 percent of children are in school, she said, but in some regions, especially in the east, the percentage drops to 30 percent.
Many children sit on the dirt under trees to study.
In October, a joint report by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and other humanitarian agencies working in eastern Chad found that the level of education among displaced children in the care of humanitarian aid agencies was higher than level of education in the areas from which they came.
Chad's education system was in the spotlight in 2005 when the French television station France 2 produced a documentary showing mistreatment and abuse of Chadian children in religious schools or madrassas.
Following its broadcast, the government said it set up a commission of inquiry. "Religious schools in the country have been inspected," the president's spokesperson, Oumar Yaya Hissein, told IRIN. "Instructors are in the process of conforming to guidelines."
But Yorongar told IRIN he recently received a call from a mother whose son had died due to physical beatings at a madrassa in a suburb of the Chadian capital N'Djamena.
"Grave child rights violations"
The UN Secretary General's July report highlighted an array of problems for Chad's five million children - more than half the population.
Among his concerns of "grave child rights violations" was the exploitation of 10-year-old girls for housework; the maiming of young boys working as livestock herders; child trafficking within Chad; and the forced and early marriage of girls.
But presidential spokesperson Yaya defended President Déby's record. "The president of the Republic has made the education, health and promotion of children his creed," Yaya said, and referred as an example to the creation of mobile schools to encourage nomadic people to enrol their children in school.