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Democratic Republic of the Congo: over 70 children rejoin their families

05-09-2011 News Release

Kinshasa/Geneva (ICRC) – In two operations which took place on 29 August and 1 September, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) reunited 74 children with their families.

Forty-five of the children had been separated from other family members as they fled armed violence; the remaining 29 were former child soldiers. Some of the children had not seen their families for over two years.

"The family reunifications are the culmination of a long-term effort," said Despina Spanoudi, who coordinates the ICRC's family reunification programmes in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. "The memories of the children, especially the younger ones, are rather confused, and in many cases the parents had been displaced a long way from their homes."

In searching for family members, the ICRC cooperates closely with the Red Cross Society of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and its large network of volunteers. Without them, it would be impossible to carry out the work successfully. It is also necessary to identify and care for the children while the tracing work is under way.

In the first operation, an ICRC aircraft was sent to the provinces of South Kivu, Maniema, Orientale, Equateur and Katanga to pick up children and take them to where their families are now living, in Katanga, Maniema, North Kivu and Kasai-Oriental. The ICRC had to use various modes of transportation, including trucks, motorcycles and boats, to reach the families living in the most remote areas. In many cases, all the children in a family were reunited with their parents. The children, aged 2 to 17, were returned to their homes with various items such as mosquito nets and blankets.

In the second operation, a group of former child soldiers aged 10 to 17 were reunited with their families in the eastern part of the country. "It's a thrill for me to be back with my family and to go to school again," said former soldier Paulin, 10 years old. Before rejoining their relatives, the children underwent two months of training in a specialized facility, the Bureau du Volontariat pour l'Enfance et la Santé, to help ease their return to their families and home communities.

Since the beginning of the year, the ICRC has reunited with their families 145 children, including 12 from the Central African Republic, South Sudan and the Republic of the Congo. Nearly 235 children who had been with armed forces or armed groups have also rejoined their families.

For further information, please contact:
Pedram Yazdi, ICRC Goma, tel: +243 817 00 77 86
Marie-Servane Desjonquères, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 79 217 32 07


Photos

Lubumbashi, Democratic Republic of the Congo. Children arrive at Loano/Lubumbashi International Airport, where they are met by the ICRC Lubumbashi tracing officer, Michel Kalunga. 

Lubumbashi, Democratic Republic of the Congo. Children arrive at Loano/Lubumbashi International Airport, where they are met by the ICRC Lubumbashi tracing officer, Michel Kalunga.
© ICRC / E. Tshibuabua

Bukavu, Democratic Republic of the Congo. Children leave Bukavu on an ICRC plane to be reunited with their families in the province of Katanga. 

Bukavu, Democratic Republic of the Congo. Children leave Bukavu on an ICRC plane to be reunited with their families in the province of Katanga.
© ICRC / E. Tshibuabua

Lubumbashi, Democratic Republic of the Congo. A 17-year-old girl found at the border between Angloa and the DRC is welcomed by her sister-in-law. 

Lubumbashi, Democratic Republic of the Congo. A 17-year-old girl found at the border between Angloa and the DRC is welcomed by her sister-in-law.
© ICRC / E. Tshibuabua

Lubumbashi, Democratic Republic of the Congo. Five children are reunited with their father. 

Lubumbashi, Democratic Republic of the Congo. Five children are reunited with their father.
© ICRC / E. Tshibuabua