Zambia: reunifying five children with their families
Gerard managed a full smile and a wave to the well-wishers and neighbours who gathered to bid him farewell. The other children, Dina, Diodone, Dunia and Mamie quickly climbed into the car, a bit overwhelmed by the attention. All five children were finally going home. The vehicle slowly left Kenani Transit Centre in northern Zambia for the six hour journey to the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The children arrived in Nchelenge, Zambia, a calm, small town on the banks of the Lake Mweru as 2017 turned into 2018. Nchelenge and its surrounding areas became home to thousands of refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo fleeing violence in their communities. For many this meant arriving without their parents, some without their children and others without their possessions.
“Without their parents or relatives, it’s very difficult for unaccompanied or separated children to be able to cope on their own. The ICRC is registering them at Kenani Transit Centre and Mantapala Refugee Resettlement to be able to trace their parents in the Democratic Republic of Congo or any other country they may be in such as Burundi or Tanzania,” said Talent Moyo, ICRC Restoring Family Links Assistant. “Where we have a positive, confirmed identification and willingness by the parents and child to be reunified, we facilitate this process with the support our office in the DRC when the security situation permits this.”
Like the horizon of the ever present lake, the bumpy dirt road to Chipungu Border Post in Zambia seemed endless. With each small town that passed, the sense of nervous anticipation in the car turned gradually into gentle smiles. The weight of the journey and expectation transformed into bonds of friendship and laughter. “We are looking forward to seeing our parents and going back school,” said Mamie. As we reached the Zambian border with the Democratic Republic of Congo, the aches in our backs seemed to disappear momentarily. Six weeks of searching, confirming and preparation had led to a possibility becoming reality.
Dina, Dunia, Mamie, Diodone and Gerard cross the border with Red Cross officials. They were met by a team from the ICRC in the DRC and Congolese Red Cross Society who would be responsible for taking them to their parents. Their final journey home had begun.