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Democratic Republic of the Congo: ICRC reunites 170 unaccompanied children with their families

16-11-2000 News Release 00/44

No less than 170 unaccompanied children were able to rejoin their families thanks to a large-scale airlift organized by the ICRC on 3 and 10 November. In the first stage 79 children and adolescents ranging in age from one to 16 years were flown from Goma to the Congolese capital Kinshasa. The Boeing 737 returned to Goma the same day with another group of 14 children. A week later, 77 minors took off from Goma bound for Lubumbashi in Katanga province aboard the ICRC-chartered plane. On their arrival the children were looked after by the ICRC before being handed over to their families, from whom most of them had been separated since the conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo flared up again in August 1998.

This operation was the largest airlift of unaccompanied children in the country to date, and the first time that an ICRC aircraft had been able to go directly from Goma to Kinshasa overflying Congolese territory.

Since January 2000, the ICRC has reunited 404 Congolese children with their families and has repatriated 310 children to Rwanda and one to Burundi. It is still trying to trace the relatives of some 1,200 unaccompanied minors, in both government-controlled and opposition-held areas of the country, with a view to organizing family reunifications.