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Angola - Stepping up search for missing persons

28-05-2003

Since the conflict in Angola ended in February 2002, a total of 5,665 people have asked the ICRC and the Angola Red Cross for help in finding their missing relatives. ICRC delegates have also registered 716 unaccompanied children and are striving to trace their parents, using new software and digital cameras.

As soon as the hostilities ended and it became possible to travel to all parts of the country, the ICRC stepped up its tracing activities, in cooperation with the Angola Red Cross, in order to tackle the enormous problem. In particular, the ICRC helped the National Society consolidate and develop its existing network of tracing offices. As a result, 145 such offices were operational in Angola's 18 provinces by the end of April 2003. Between January and April 2003, the network handled some 51,000 Red Cross messages (over 130,000 since 2002).

In order to boost its tracing activities in Angola, made all the more difficult by the size of the country and mine contamination, the ICRC also launched a new publication at the end of March 2003: the Gazeta . This publication lists the names of persons reported missing by their families and those of unaccompanied children whose parents are being sought.

The Gazeta , the first publication of its kind in Africa, is being distributed throughout Angola, in refugee camps across the border and in Western countries where Angolan refugees are living. Since early May, the list has also been available on the ICRC's web page http://www.familylinks.icrc.org .

The launch of the Gazeta has rekindled hope among many people – the hope of being reunited, like Jacinta and Madelena, with a loved one they have not seen or heard from in many years.