Rwanda: “I thought my daughters had perished”

"I thought my daughters had perished in DRC. Thank you Lord, I have seen them again."

Nyirarukundo Umberinka had not seen her daughters Asifiwe Chance Gisèle, 14, and Malaika Jeanne d'Arc, 7, for two years. The family was trying to return to Rwanda from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), where they had been living since 1994, when they were attacked by armed men.

In the chaos, Nyirarukundo and her husband, Jean Baptiste Gatera, ran one way and their daughters another. Nyirarukundo and Jean Baptiste returned to Rwanda, unsure of what happened to their daughters. Before leaving DRC, they submitted a request to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to find their daughters.

7-year-old Malaika Jeanne d'Arc was separated from her parents after they were attacked by armed men. After spending two years apart, the ICRC reunited her with her family. CC BY-NC-ND/ICRC

The ICRC, along with its partners the Rwanda Red Cross and the DRC Red Cross, searched for the girls and eventually found them in Rutchuru, North Kivu, where they had been living, under the care of a neighbour. In September 2018, the ICRC team brought them to Rwanda.

Nyirarukundo's agonizing wait was over.

"I am very contented. I feel like I want to fly," Nyirarukundo said, hugging her daughters. "Praise to the Lord, Amen, Amen! I feared they couldn't find a way home, but they are here now."

The ICRC continues to work with the Rwanda Red Cross to help separated family members like Nyirarukundo and her daughters find each other and stay in touch. As of May 2018, the ICRC was searching for the relatives of more than 30 unaccompanied children.