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Malawi: ICRC aiding unaccompanied children

08-06-2000 News Release 00/21

It has been six years since 17-year-old Eric Mulinda (not his real name) last saw a member of his family.   Eric fled the genocide in Rwanda in 1994, after seeing his father being killed and losing track of his brother. He has been searching for his brother ever since. Eric's story is one of tragedy and perseverance. He first sought refuge from the carnage in what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He moved on in 1995 when he heard that his brother might be in Nairobi. On arrival in the Kenyan capital he was told that his brother had left. Eric spent the next five years in Kenya. Finally he learned that his brother had been seen in Dzaleka refugee camp in Malawi. Eric travelled the 1,500 km on foot and by hitching lifts where he could. The journey took him three months, and he arrived in the camp only to discover that his brother had indeed been there but had left a few months earlier for either France or Belgium.

Eric's story is typical of the loss, isolation and break-up of families that are among the most devastating consequences of war. Faced with challenges such as these, the ICRC is pursuing its work to trace missing persons and reunite families. Last week, delegates went to the Dzaleka camp and, in conjunction with the Malawi Red Cross Society, registered 15 unaccompanied children, Eric among them. With Red Cross help, perhaps he will yet be reunited with his brother.