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Chad: Waiting for news from N’Djamena

18-02-2008 Feature

As the inhabitants of N’Djamena, the capital of Chad, go about rebuilding their lives, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Red Cross of Chad are striving to respond to the emotional needs of families split up by violence.


© ICRC / I. Kaloga    
  N’Djamena call centre opened by the Red Cross of Chad and the ICRC.    
    “I used to call her every day. Then, no contact for nearly a week. She was worried. Now her mind will be at rest as she sits for her exams.”

Alhaji went away happy and relieved. He’s a bookkeeper, and his fiancé, Aïssatou, is in Lomé, the capital of Togo, reading law. Because telecommunications were interrupted by fighting in N’Djamena, many Chadians have been unable to exchange news or even to send word to friends and loved ones that they are alright.

Each and every one of the many Chadians who live abroad is a brother, sister, mother or fiancé potentially without news of loved ones at home. “Thank you so much, and God bless you,” said a visibly moved Mahamat after talking to his brother who lives in Brazzaville, in the Republic of the Congo. “Thanks to you I was able to talk to my brother!”

Mahamat and Alhaji were among dozens of people who came one morning to the call centre opened by the Red Cross of Chad and the ICRC. At the centre, people who want to contact their relatives can phone abroad to exchange family news.

“Most people make calls just to say that they are okay, that they are still in N’Djamena, that all is well,” explained Djiddo Djimet, a member of the ICRC tracing staff.

“That reassures their relatives, some of whom are in France, Libya, Senegal or even the United States. It doesn’t seem like much, but people go away with a load off their mind after talking with their daughter or father. And for those receiving the calls, several days spent anxiously waiting for news are brought to an end.”

The ICRC is supporting the Red Cross of Chad in its efforts to restore contact between family members separated from one another by the conflict. In particular, the ICRC is making available its know-how in tracing matters.

According to Sophie Barbey, in charge of coordinating these activities for the ICRC in N’Djamena, because the call centre meets only some needs it can only be considered a first step. “Sometimes the relatives people have had no news from cannot be reached by telephone. That’s why we’ll be working with our Chadian Red Cross colleagues over the coming days to enable people finding themselves in this situation to benefit from our tracin g experience. We hope to be able to relieve the anxiety that anyone must certainly feel who is still waiting for news of a father, mother or child,” she said.

Each call made from the centre puts at ease the mind of someone, somewhere in the world, about how a previously unreachable loved one is faring.