Snapshots: Photos that really matter

Snapshots are helping people in South Sudan find their loved ones

11 April 2019
Snapshots: Photos that really matter

We all love pictures: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat are full of them. We use them to laugh, remember, create, complain, tease and, sometimes, promote our actions. We share millions of photos every day. But how many of them have an impact?

In South Sudan, the impact was clear: with 2,000 photos, more than 600 people found their family members after war tore them apart.

This is how it works: a simple camera, a single picture and a book that travels around. We call them snapshot booklets.

In a world gone digital, we sometimes forget that there are also those who don't have access to technology – not even a phone network.

"Basic solutions can bring hope to many people in great difficulty. After a natural disaster, war or violence people can lose contact with each other and never see or hear from their family members. In many places, like Europe, you might be able to easily search for missing people on the internet, but in a country that has been devastated by conflict, finding family members can be much harder and people can live for years never knowing about the fate of their loved ones," explains Cellou Mamadou Bah, who runs the Restoring Family Links programme for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in South Sudan.

Ten snapshot booklets have been produced since 2005, in cooperation with National Red Cross Societies, with photos taken in different places in South Sudan and Ethiopia. These books have travelled to refugee camps in five countries: Sudan, Ethiopia, Uganda, Kenya and Congo and have been posted on the programme's website.

The way it works is simple: people who have lost contact with their loved ones go through all the photos in the booklet to find their family members. If they see a photo of their relatives, the family link is verified through several questions and they are put in touch with a phone call or a written message. When the person separated is a minor or a vulnerable adult, and with everyone's consent, they get reunited physically in South Sudan.

If you would like to find more information about the Restoring Family Links programme and the different tools we use to reunite families, visit our webpage.