News release

South Sudan: New policy brings hope to families of thousands registered as missing

Juba (ICRC)—As 30 August marks the International Day of the Disappeared, thousands of South Sudanese intensify their search for their missing loved ones, an agonizing effort now recognized through a newly-created government working group in Juba. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in South Sudan, in collaboration with the South Sudan Red Cross (SSRC), is searching for more than 5,000 people registered as missing, though the true number of people who are missing due to conflict and violence may never be known.

"Every day I wonder when my son will come back home," said Lucia Opong Osida, a mother of five. She has been searching for her only son, who went missing during the 2016 conflict in Eastern Equatoria State. "All people came back from the war, many are now reunited with their families, so where is my son?"

Lucia Opong Osida, a mother of five, has been searching for her only son, who went missing during the 2016 conflict in Eastern Equatoria State.

The more than 5,000 South Sudanese registered with the ICRC as missing include cases opened in South Sudan as well as in Sudan, Uganda, Ethiopia, Kenya, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Egypt. The caseload is likely a fragment of the true scale of missing people in the country. Additionally, families of the missing face complex, persistent challenges that are often overlooked.

"When someone goes missing, the families not only lose a loved one, but they also lose income, property or inheritance making it hard for them to meet day to day needs. These can be made worse by grief and trauma which only deepens as it gets harder to find answers," said Cellou Mamadou Bah, the ICRC's deputy protection coordinator responsible for restoring family links in South Sudan.

"Finding a solution to the issue of the missing is essential for the sustainability of peace in South Sudan," said Honorable Gatwech Peter Kulang, Undersecretary of the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management of South Sudan. "This year, in cooperation with the ICRC, the Ministry inaugurated the technical working group dedicated to this issue. We strongly believe that this group will support the national process of addressing the needs of the families of the missing in South Sudan."

The ICRC hopes that by having a dedicated technical working group focused on resolving cases of missing people in the country, more South Sudanese will have answers on what happened to their loved ones. "We commend the efforts of the authorities to address the complex needs of the families through creating a dedicated mechanism and the relevant legal and policy framework to focus on the issue of the missing persons," said Bah. 

From January to June 2020, the ICRC reunited 76 people, including children, with their families and facilitated more than 55,000 phone calls among family members separated by conflicts and other situation of violence. The ICRC is also helping detainees keep in touch with their families through letters and phone calls. Despite the challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic, the ICRC has been able to register more than 577 new cases of missing people this year, to continue the search for the missing.

For further information, please contact:

Lucien Christen, ICRC Juba,

Aidah Khamis Woja, ICRC Juba, +211 925 230 500