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Angola: Ten years without news

22-08-2002 News Release 02/34

All alone in the middle of the crowd, with tears welling in his eyes, Feliciano holds in his trembling hand a piece of paper containing a few lines of neat, meticulous writing. Amid the usual Friday afternoon hubbub on the parking lot near Independence Square in Luanda, a man has found a trace of the son he thought was dead, the son who had been missing for 10 years.

The last time Feliciano saw his son was in Moxico province in 1992. The fighting, the panic among the population, the clamour of weaponry and the confusion that accompany any military operation result in the separation of family members. Some find each other again immediately, in the homes of friends or in neighbouring villages. Or even in their own homes, later, when they are able to go back. But often, as is the case here in Angola, displaced people have to walk hundreds, or even thousands, of kilometres. Separations are prolonged, and hope often gives way to resignation, since the members of dispersed families have no idea how to get in touch with one another. Feliciano no longer believed he would ever see his son again.

But now he is fired with new hope. His son is safe and sound in a refugee camp in Zambia. And it is this little piece of paper, this Red Cross message, that confirms it. He recognizes the signature. He will write a reply – " later " , he says, for right now he is overcome with emotion and anxious to rush to tell his wife that their son is alive. Beaming with joy, he thanks the ICRC again. Behind him, hundreds of people wait their turn.

Over a thousand Red Cross messages are exchanged every week between separated relatives in Angola and neighbouring countries. Messages that bring hope and, for some, a reunion in the near future.