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Rwanda: one million red cross messages exchanged

12-07-1995 News Release 28

The ICRC's Red Cross message service in Rwanda has reached a new peak: in June the staff of the ICRC Tracing Agency managed to handle 360,000 messages, thus reaching an impressive figure of over one million since August 1994. These messages allowed Rwandans to get in touch with relatives inside the country, in refugee camps in Burundi, Tanzania and Zaire or even further away in a third country.

Thirty ICRC delegates and 250 local staff are currently working in Rwanda and the surrounding countries to provide this vital service. " Tracing people in Rwanda is extremely difficult " , said Catherine Gendre, head of the Tracing Agency there. " Up-country, in the villages there are often no precise addresses. Our staff have to go from door to door to find out where people live. In the capital Kigali, where the population has changed to a large extent, 12 local specialists are distributing 2,000 messages a week, some of them after only the second or third try " .

Tracing staff have also registered around 70,000 unaccompanied children, all waiting to be reunited with their mothers, their fathers or other close relatives. Together with other organizations, such as the Save the Children Fund, the ICRC has so far reunited more than 4,000 children with their families.

As most detainees in Rwandan prisons have lost contact with their families, the ICRC is providing them with the opportunity to write messages to their relatives and to receive news from them through the Red Cross message network. Some 50,000 detainees are currently held in Rwanda in about 200 places of detention