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Angola: Upsurge in tracing activities

13-12-2002 News Release 02/50

Following the ceasefire agreement signed by the parties to the conflict in Angola on 4 April, the ICRC has seen a substantial increase in its tracing activities.

In the first 10 months of the year, over 30,500 Red Cross messages were collected and more than 29,500 distributed throughout the country, including in formerly inaccessible areas. In order to help cope with the growing demand, the Angola Red Cross has set up 118 new sub-offices and additional ones are continually sprouting.

So far, over 3,100 families have asked the ICRC for help in finding relatives who have disappeared and 960 unaccompanied minors have been registered by the organization. Assisted by new software and digital cameras, ICRC delegates have been striving to match the children with the families. By the end of October, 175 children had already been reunited with their relatives.

These activities are being carried out in close cooperation with the Angola Red Cross, whose 18 provincial tracing coordinators were invited to attend a two-day seminar given by the ICRC on 5-6 December at the National Society's training centre in Viana, just outside the capital, Luanda. Despite the difficulty of travelling to Luanda from some of the provinces, all but one coordinator took part in the seminar, the second one of its kind in the country. The first took place in 1996 but only a small number of people were able to attend, owing to the conflict. Follow-up seminars are planned for next year to build on the skills acquired.

In a speech delivered before Angola's National Assembly to mark the 54th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on 10 December, the ICRC head of delegation in Luanda, Alain Kolly, highlighted two priorities for humanitarian organizations working in the country: tracing activities and the problem of mines. During the rainy season in particular, buried mines come to the surface and claim numerous victims among the civilian population and aid workers.

Mr Kolly welcomed the ratification by Angola earlier this year of the Ottawa Convention banning landmines and encouraged parliamentarians to promote the country's adherence to other humanitarian law treaties, in particular Protocol II additional to the 1949 Geneva Conventions. Angola adhered to the Geneva Conventions and their First Additional Protocol in 1984. Both Protocols, adopted in 1977, relate to the protection of civilians in armed conflicts.

 Further information: Caspar Landolt, ICRC Luanda, tel. ++2442 264 454