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Darfur: Family reunited after three years

06-11-2006 Feature

In Sudan as elsewhere, the ICRC traces children who become separated from their parents in the turmoil of an armed conflict. Thanks to its efforts, two little brothers were reunited with their parents on 12 October in Nyala, in southern Darfur. Information delegate Jean-Yves Clémenzo relates their story.


  ©ICRC/J.-Y. Clemenzo    
Nyala, Sudan. Two children are reunited with their parents at the ICRC delegation office.    
    The drone of an approaching plane could be heard over Nyala airport in southern Darfur. A few moments later, an ICRC-chartered aircraft landed and came to a halt. Two little boys walked slowly down the gangway, a woman holding them by the hand. " They weren't afraid in the plane, " said Megan Rock, the ICRC delegate in charge of them. " They smiled a lot and played tog ether. " The two boys had travelled overland from Chad to the Sudanese border before being flown to Nyala.
Munir, aged four, and Abdulrahman, who is six, lived in a refugee camp for three years after fleeing northern Darfur with their grandparents when their village was bombed. A few minutes before he was reunited with them, their father explained to me how they had become separated. " We set off in different directions. My two sons travelled west with their grandparents and my wives and I made our way to southern Darfur. " For two years, this former herder who now works at the market in Nyala had no news of his children.
Then one day in early 2006 he received a visit from an ICRC employee who handed him a Red Cross message with the good news. It was from Munir and Adbulrahman. In the message, which had been collected by the ICRC in November 2005, the two children said that they wanted to come home. He could hardly believe his eyes.
ICRC and Sudanese Red Crescent staff collect requests to trace children and parents from separated families. If the search is successful, the two parties are put back in touch with each other by means of Red Cross messages. Both parents and children must then express their wish to be reunited before any further steps are taken. If they do, the process will take some time since the authorities must first be informed, travel documents issued and arrangements made for a safe journey.
 A rare occurrence

Once the airport formalities were over, the two brothers were driven to the Nyala sub-delegation to be reunited with their parents. Since the beginning of the year, the ICRC has reunited 36 children with their parents in Sudan, including 25 in Darfur. The organization is presently monitoring the cases of 500 separated children in the province.
It is actually quite rare for families to brought back together this way. Tracing efforts are often hampered by outdated information, and security conditions are so bad in certain parts of Darfur that ICRC delegates are unable to go there for tracing purposes.
Inside the sub-delegation compound, Munir and Abdulrahman advanced calmly towards the inner courtyard, where their father and his two wives – the children's mothers – were waiting. The father clasped his children in a strenuous embrace and then led them to their mothers, who greeted them with tears of joy, modestly drawing their veils over their faces to hide the depth of their feelings.
Although the family is together now, their future looks bleak. The father had to leave his herds behind in the north and his new job at the market does not bring in enough money to feed a whole family. Threatened by human violence, on the one hand, and the violence of nature, on the other, life in Darfur is ruled by uncertainty.