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Uganda: unaccompanied Congolese children reunited with their families

06-08-2009 News Release 153/09

Kampala/Kinshasa (ICRC) – The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is reuniting seven Congolese children aged 13 to 17 who found themselves alone in Uganda with their families in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) today.

The children were looked after temporarily by foster families in Nakivale and Kyaka II refugee settlements in Uganda.

" The Congolese children were separated from their families when they fled the eastern DRC into Uganda to escape the armed conflict that took place in the North Kivu region between 2006 and 2008, " said Megan Rock, an ICRC delegate in Kampala. " The ICRC, the Uganda Red Cross Society and the Red Cross Society of the DRC jointly facilitated the repatriation of these children and their reunification with their families. "

Shortly after their arrival in Nakivale and Kyaka II, the children were registered by the Uganda Red Cross and the ICRC, which began searching for their parents and other close relatives in the DRC with the help of that country's Red Cross Society. Whenever family members were located, they and the children exchanged Red Cross messages (short messages containing family news).

For Jackson, one of the seven children, a Red Cross message received from his father after more than two years of separation provided hope that he would see his family again:'' I was so relieved to hear that they are still alive. I want to go home and start a new life.''

The ICRC and the Uganda Red Cross transported the children to the border at Bunagana, where they were placed in the care of ICRC staff based in Goma. Six of them were subsequently reunited with their families in Rutshuru territory and one in Goma. According to Caroline Martinod, the ICRC delegate who accompanied the children on their way back to their families,'' such moments are intense: it's very emotional for everyone involved and very gratifying to see the child and family happy again.''

Restoring family links is one of the priority activities of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. Since the beginning of 2009, the ICRC and the Uganda Red Cross have registered 219 Congolese children in Uganda, and located the families of 91 of them in the DRC with the help of the DRC Red Cross.

 

For further information, please contact:
  Kerstan Cohen, ICRC Goma, tel: +243 810 366 812
  Walter Akwat, ICRC Kampala, tel: +256 772 387 993 or +256 41 341 605/6
  Anna Schaaf, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 22 730 2271 or +41 79 217 3217