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Liberia: ICRC reunites over 600 children with families

06-10-2004 News Release 04/118

Monrovia (ICRC) - The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has reunited 644 children with their families – some after a separation of several years – since the civil war ended in Liberia in August 2003.

The chaos of armed conflict frequently wrenches apart families who have been forced to flee the fighting. Children are the most vulnerable individuals, often getting lost with no one to take care of them.

Most of the 644 children were repatriated from neighbouring countries: 229 from Guinea, 199 from Sierra Leone, 12 from Côte d'Ivoire, seven from Ghana, and four from Nigeria. The 193 others were traced in Liberia itself.

Last April, the ICRC launched its fourth poster campaign on the subject with the pictures of nearly 500 children separated from their families. The posters have been widely displayed in public places throughout Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Côte d'Ivoire. Roland Hunziker, the ICRC tracing coordinator in Liberia, explained how it works. “If a family member recognizes a child on a photo, we use a regional database to carefully crosscheck the information with that gathered from separated children registered in West Africa " .

Once the identities of the children and families have been crosschecked, the ICRC restores contact between them and ensures that any reunification occurs on a strictly voluntary basis. Then the ICRC facilitates the provision of transport and travel documents, furnishes basic assistance, and ensures a follow-up to confirm the well-being of the returned children. The whole process demands careful and complex coordination. Over 200 volunteers from the Liberian National Red Cross Society and staff from other ICRC delegations in the region act together to bring this about.

Since the civil war ended, the ICRC has intensified its work to reunite separated families. At present it is dealing with so me 1,500 cases of separated Liberian children in West Africa. An average of 15 children a week are currently being returned to their families.

In 2003, the ICRC reunited 2,640 individuals with their families worldwide, most of them children.

 For further information please contact:  

 Jean-Yves Clemenzo, ICRC Monrovia, tel. +231 6 528 089  

  Marco Jiménez, Geneva, tel. +41 22 730 22 71