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Democratic Republic of the Congo: 15 children join their families after years of separation

05-03-2010 News Release 10/33

Kampala/Kinshasa (ICRC) – The ICRC is currently reuniting with their families 15 Congolese children separated from them by the conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

The four girls and eleven boys fled the fighting in eastern Congo between 1997 and 2009, and have been living with foster families in refugee settlements in western Uganda.

The ICRC and the Uganda Red Cross Society transported the children to the border, where they were handed over to ICRC staff from Goma in the DRC. Thirteen of the fifteen children were then taken to their families in Nyanzale and Rutshuru, in North Kivu. The remaining two are due to be reunited with their families in Rubare and Minova (South Kivu) in the next few days.

Among the children are two brothers aged 14 and 16 who became separated from their parents in 1998. " I thought my children were dead, " said their mother Adeline Kabongo. " I lost my 2- and 4-year-old babies and now I'm standing in front of young men almost taller than me. "

" It is a real challenge to trace the families of children separated at such a young age and over such a long period of time, " points out Svetlana Yudina, the ICRC delegate who accompanied the two brothers. " In this case, it would have been impossible without the vast network of Red Cross volunteers in both countries. "

16-year-old Munguiko could not believe his luck when his father managed to contact him through the Red Cross. " I had made many friends in Uganda since I fled the fighting at home over a year ago. But I'm so happy to see my parents again. It will be easier for me to move on. " Munguiko now wants to take up his studies. While he was in the camp he did manual work to make a living, rather than go to school.

Restoring family links is one of the priority activities of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. In 2009, 134 children were reunited with their families in Uganda, while 1,908 children were reunited with their families in the DRC.

 

For further information, please contact:  Nicole Engelbrecht, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 22 730 2271 or +41 79 217 3217
 Layla Berlemont, ICRC Kampala, tel: +256 772 221 994 or +256 41 341 605/6
 Inah Kaloga, ICRC Kinshasa, tel: +243 81 700 60 60 or +243 81 700 85 36