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Southern Africa: ICRC restores contact between child refugees and their families

26-10-2000 News Release 00/41

" In 1996, I was playing with friends by the river. We saw people coming towards us and they chased us. I was caught, slapped and taken to a car. They told me that from that day onwards I was a member of their family. " This is the story told by 12-year-old Ngaba Nagwali (fictitious name), who was abducted from her home village during the war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo when she was eight years old. When the ICRC found her, alone among thousands of refugees, she had been living in a camp in Botswana for the previous four years with no news of her family.

Stories such as Ngaba's are only too common. The loss or break-up of families is one of the most tragic consequences of war, and in these circumstances the ICRC does its utmost to trace missing relatives and reunite families.

Ngaba is one of the lucky children whose story will have a happy ending. She was registered by the ICRC in Dukwe refugee camp in Botswana, and the information she supplied was used to locate her mother in the DRC. Mother and daughter have now asked to be reunited.

In Dzaleka refugee camp in Malawi and Mwange refugee camp in Zambia, another 16 unaccompanied children who were registered by the ICRC in 1999 and 2000 have had their families located in Tanzania and the DRC. The families have contacted their children by means of Red Cross messages and have also asked to be reunited with the help of the ICRC.