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Former Yugoslavia: after five years, a Red Cross message reunites brother and sister

20-03-1997 News Release 97/10

Last week, after five years of agonizing silence, a woman in Croatia discovered through a Red Cross message that her brother was alive.

The brother, a Serb living in Croatia, fled his home in 1991 as war approached and later settled in the Banja Luka region of Bosnia-Herzegovina. His sister, a middle-aged woman married to a Croat and living in a small village close to the border with the former Sector South, decided to stay behind and they lost touch completely.

Then a few days ago she received a surprise visit from one of the ICRC mobile teams based in Knin. She was handed a Red Cross message written by her brother, reassuring her that he was alive and wanted to make contact with his family again.

Although communications have improved greatly since peace returned to the former Yugoslavia and many displaced families have been able to get in touch with their relations by normal means, the Red Cross message network remains vital for people living in remote regions, especially elderly persons confined to their homes. In areas where minorities are still in a vulnerable position, the presence of the ICRC also provides a degree of protection.

Last year alone, the ICRC handled over 370,000 Red Cross messages in connection with the former Yugoslavia. In close cooperation with National Societies and the local Red Cross, over 18 million messages have been processed since 1991, making this the biggest such operation since the Second World War.