Angola/DRC: The unacompanied children of Lóvua Refugee Camp share their stories

  • Lucie Florance and her mother fled from Tshikapa in the DRC to Angola when armed violence broke out. Not long after their arrival, her mother fell ill and died, leaving the 11-year-old alone. Since then she’s been staying at Lóvua refugee camp and now keeps in touch with her grandfather through the phone service offered by the ICRC and Angolan Red Cross Society at the camp. She’s pictured here with Martins Cassongo, a CVA volunteer.
    CC BY-NC-ND / ICRC / Silvia Aquino
  • At only 14, Daniel’s journey has not been easy. The scars on his body are clearly visible but he speaks nothing of them. When fighting broke out in Kasai in the DRC in 2017, he was hurt and sought refuge in Lóvua refugee camp in northern Angola.
    CC BY-NC-ND / ICRC / Silvia Aquino
  • Jean-Far is known as Petit or ‘little one’. When there were attacks on his village, Jean-Far and his parents ran to a nearby soccer field but soon after, bombs forced everyone to flee in different directions. Jean-Far found himself alone and followed people to Angola. We were able to get him back home to his mother after 1 year apart.
    CC BY-NC-ND / ICRC / Silvia Aquino
  • Three of the five Lupemba siblings excitedly sifting through their new backpacks filled with lots of goodies from the ICRC. In April 2017, their mother left their home headed to the market never to return. The market had been attacked in ongoing violence in the area. John, the eldest of the siblings fled with his father and together they tracked down four other siblings. Sadly, their father later lost his life. The siblings have been staying at Lóvua refugee camp in Angola, and on this day were preparing to head back to the DRC to be reunited with their uncle after two years.
    CC BY-NC-ND / ICRC / Silvia Aquino
  • One of the aspects often forgotten in the reunification process are the guardians. The foster parents who take care of the separated children at the refugee camp. This often makes leaving a camp like Lóvua bitter sweet and very emotional for the separated children and their guardians. Here, Lucie Florance says her goodbyes to her foster family who cared for her for the past 12 months.
    CC BY-NC-ND / ICRC / Silvia Aquino
  • With arms wide open, Ester Kapashi runs to embrace her son Jean-Far who she was separated from in 2018. So overcome with emotions and tears of joy, she hardly said more than two words. “To have the privilege of witnessing a mother being reunited with her child, the smiles through tears of joy, is something that will always touch me as a human being,” says Silvia Aquino, ICRC Protection Delegate.
    CC BY-NC-ND / ICRC / Silvia Aquino
17 July 2019

John, Felly, Antonique, August and Martin, siblings aged between 6 and 21, were separated from their family when conflict broke out in their home in Kananga in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). They fled to northern Angola. ICRC Protection Delegate, Silvia Aquino was part of the team that traveled with the five siblings from Lóvua refugee camp to the DRC in the family reunification process.

While at the camp, children who had been separated from their families were offered phone calls to relatives back home. The ICRC coordinates with various organizations in the camp to ensure that needs of the children are addressed in a comprehensive way and that children to be reunified, receive the required support for a smooth reunification process with their relatives. Those being reunified with their families were also given backpacks containing various essentials from clothes to school supplies to help them settle back in with their families upon their return.

Every year, thousands of family members are separated by conflict, violence, disasters and mgiration. The ICRC and National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies work together around the world to locate people and put them back in contact with their relatives. This work includes looking for family members, restoring contact, reuniting family members and seeking to clarify the fate of those who remain missing.