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Democratic Republic of the Congo / Uganda: 14 children finally rejoin their families

22-07-2010 News Release 10/132

Geneva/Kinshasa/Kampala (ICRC) – The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has reunited 14 Congolese children aged three to 17 years with their families in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Host families had been temporarily looking after the children in refugee camps in Uganda. Some of the children had been separated from their parents for as long as a year.

" These children – 12 boys and two girls – had been eagerly awaiting the chance to return to the Congo, " said Jean-Paolo Spoto, an ICRC delegate in Goma. " The conflict in North Kivu forced them to flee their villages. The children found themselves alone in Uganda, while their families were on the other side of the border, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. "

When they arrived in the refugee camps, the children were registered by the Uganda Red Cross Society and by the ICRC, which set about looking for their parents and other close relatives in the Democratic Republic of the Congo with the help of that country's Red Cross society.

The ICRC and the Uganda Red Cross today brought the children to the border post at Bunagana, where they were placed in the care of ICRC staff based in Goma. The children were then taken to their families, most of whom were living in the Rutshuru territory of North Kivu. The ICRC had previously made sure that the family reunifications were taking place on a strictly voluntary basis.

Two brothers, Daniel, three years old, and Baraka, seven, were returned to their mother. " I missed her a lot, " said Baraka. " I'm eager to live with her again and support her. Things had to be hard for her, too. "

Family break-up is one of the most painful consequences of armed conflict. Restoring contact between family members is therefore a priority of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement.

With support from the region's Red Cross societies, the ICRC is currently searching for almost 800 children separated from their families during the conflicts that have beset the Democratic Republic of the Congo and its neighbours. Around 150 of the children are believed to be in Uganda. Since the beginning of the year, 386 children have been reunited with their families in the Congo, including 38 who had been in Uganda.

  For further information, please contact:
  Pedram Yazdi, ICRC Goma, tel: +243 810 366 812
  Layla Berlemont, ICRC Kampala, tel: +256 772 387 993 or +256 41 341 605/6
  Nicole Engelbrecht, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 22 730 2271 or +41 79 217 3217