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Democratic Republic of the Congo: ICRC reunites 31 unaccompanied children with their parents

08-02-2002 News Release 02/10

Geneva (ICRC) - On 6 and 7 February the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) flew 25 children from Goma to Kinshasa, where they were reunited with their families. On 6February the ICRC aircraft took six children to Goma to join their parents living in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

These were the first transfers of unaccompanied children between the east and the west of the country since the eruption of the Nyiragongo volcano. One of the most painful aspects in humanitarian terms of any conflict situation is the separation of family members. In Goma, this problem has been compounded by the natural disaster which engulfed the city and forced its inhabitants to flee.

To facilitate the reunification of the many dispersed families, information relating to unaccompanied children is posted up at various aid distribution points, and the children's names are regularly broadcast by local radio stations. The Red Cross Society of the Democratic Republic of the Congo has also set up 12 contact points in Goma and two nearby towns for parents seeking their children. To date 210 unaccompanied children have been registered and 800 tracing requests submitted. Aided by more than 150 National Society workers, the ICRC is making a sustained effort to trace persons reported missing and to reunite unaccompanied children with their parents or other relatives who can take care of them.

In the course of 2001 the ICRC arranged for 310 children to rejoin their families in both the east and the west of the country. A total of 1,952 children have benefited from the ICRC's family reunification programme since it was launched in 1997.