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Angola: boy reunited with mother as ICRC activities wind down

26-03-2009 News Release 09/59

Luanda/Geneva (ICRC) – As one of its last actions before scaling back its work in Angola, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) will today reunite a boy with his mother in Mussende, about 400 km south-west of the capital Luanda.

Serafim and his mother lost touch with each other 10 years ago, after the boy's father died in the fighting. " I am very happy to be returning to my mother's house, " said Serafim. " I thought I would never see her again. It's like a miracle. "

Serafim asked the ICRC for help in 2007. A year later, working together with the Angola Red Cross, the ICRC succeeded in locating his mother in Mussende, where she is now eagerly awaiting his return. Serafim is one of thousands of children who were separated from their families between 1975 and 2002. Since the end of the civil war the ICRC and the Angola Red Cross have traced over 2,000 unaccompanied children, reunited more than 750 families and handled 433,000 Red Cross messages (brief messages containing family news).

At the end of the 1980s Angola was the scene of the ICRC's biggest operation in Africa. Now, seven years after the end of Angola's devastating conflict, the ICRC is curtailing the operations it has carried out in the country since 1975. As of July this year, it will no longer run a delegation in the country, but will maintain an office in Luanda under the supervision of the ICRC delegation in South Africa. The Luanda office will provide support for certain Angola Red Cross programmes, such as those focusing on restoring family links. The ICRC will also continue to support the government in its efforts to incorporate provisions of international humanitarian law in national legislation. In Cabinda, the ICRC will continue to conduct visits to detainees on a regular basis.

" Nowadays, it is typically the role of the National Red Cross or Red Crescent Society to take the lead in domestic matters of humanitarian concern, " explained Maryse Limoner, the outgoing head of the ICRC delegation. " The Angola Red Cross has a vast pool of volunteers and staff who will continue to assist those in need. "

Last year already, the ICRC handed over its physical rehabilitation programme for landmine victims to the Ministry of Health and closed its sub-delegation in Huambo.

Besides tracing and reuniting families, the ICRC has been involved in various other activities in Angola such as providing medical assistance, physical rehabilitation, and water and sanitation services, protecting the civilian population, visiting places of detention, and promoting international humanitarian law among weapon bearers.
For further information, please contact:
  Maryse Limoner, ICRC Luanda, tel: +244 924 068 523
  Nicole Engelbrecht, ICRC Nairobi, tel: +254 20 2723 963 or + 254 722 512 728
  Anna Schaaf, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 22 730 2271 or +41 79 217 3217