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Darfur: a message from mum lights up Seina’s day

29-01-2008 Feature

Family separation is one of the painful lasting consequences of the Darfur conflict. Thousands of people who have lost touch with their families regain contact thanks to messages sent through the ICRC and the Sudanese Red Crescent. The ICRC’s Cecilia Goin reports from North Darfur.

  ©ICRC/C. Goin    
  Issa and Samir, SRCS volunteers, delivering a message to Seina.    
  ©ICRC/C. Goin    
  Seina reads her mother's message to her husband.    
  Restoring family links in Sudan
  In cooperation with the SRCS, the ICRC continued to offer its Red Cross Messages (RCM) and tracing services to enable separated families to re-establish and maintain family links. In 2007:
  • 32,527 Red Cross Messages (RCM) were transmitted to and from family members separated by the conflict;

  • 513 persons were located at their families' request;

  • 15 separated or unaccompanied children were newly registered;

  • 18 persons were re-united with their families by the ICRC;
    The breathtakingly beautiful surroundings of Tawila, in North Darfur, belies the horror of the violence that has struck this area since 2004, forcing more than 20,000 people to flee to safety elsewhere.
The town, lying more than an hour’s drive west of el Fasher, is set against the Jebel Marra mountains. The midday sun bathes its streets, the mosque stands out. And it is quiet – too quiet, in fact.
Today, Tawila is more or less a ghost town, with no people and no children playing around. The houses are unoccupied, some of them with no straw roofs; others have a few empty pots spread outside the front door.

From 2004, after repeated attacks on the town, the people fled for safety to a camp named “Rwanda”, away from the town.


 Good news over breakfast  
The camp comes to life at nine, when the owners of the small market inside the camp start to open their small stands: tomatoes, onions, bread and spices are put in order and ready to be sold. At the same time, the Sudanese Red Crescent Society (SRCS) tracing post located in the heart of the camp opens its doors to help people anxious for news about their loved ones who are missing.
Issa (28) and Samir (26) are SRCS volunteers in charge of distributing and collecting messages in the camp. They are ready to deliver one to Seina (26), who is preparing breakfast for her husband and three children. She has been waiting for news from her mother for the past few weeks. As soon as she opens the door of her house and sees Issa and Samir, she smiles broadly and says: " A message from my mother, thank God! "

“Red Cross Messages bring the simplest of news to families... and that means the world to them” 
" In 2005, after several attacks on Tawila we fled to this camp,” Seina explains. “We were scared that something bad was going to happen to us if we stayed in the town.
" My mother lives in Nyala, in South Darfur. I cannot afford to visit her, as it is far away from here. Every time I receive a message from her I know she is fine, it is really so important for me to receive news from her. This is the only way I have to know if she is in good health. "
While reading the letter, Seina smiles with pleasure. " The Red Crescent helps me keep in touch with her regularly. I a m very happy for that. Tomorrow I will reply to her and I know we will keep in touch again and again thanks to the Red Crescent ," Seina said while reading the message one more time.

 A bridge between separated families  

Every year, Red Crescent volunteers, with the support of the ICRC, receive and distribute thousands of messages in Darfur and other parts of Sudan.
“These messages are the only means the displaced have to get in touch with their relatives. We all know how important is to keep this contact alive. Every time I deliver a message to someone, I feel we are like a bridge between separated families " , Issa says.
" I am a displaced person myself and I know exactly what it means not to have news from the ones whom we love most; when a message comes, we do not feel alone anymore.”
He adds: " Red Cross Messages bring the simplest of news to families and individuals separated by armed conflict. They enable those separated by war to keep in contact and to share family news. And that means the world to them. "