Emergency assistance continues in Somalia
Since the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) reduced its activities in Somalia in April this year, following a security incident involving ten Red Cross/Red Crescent staff, the agency has continued to provide some assistance based on the emergency needs of the Somali people. These reduced activities are carried out by the ICRC Somali Field Officers and the Somali Red Crescent Society (SRCS) staff. The activities include first aid and surgical assistance to the war wounded, basic curative services to the local communities and Tracing activities - the largest and most unique communication service rendered to the displaced Somali families in a country where the centralised postal system collapsed years ago. The ICRC is currently analysing ways of responding to the humanitarian needs, its main concern being the security situation which will eventually determine the nature and timing of future resumption of its activities.
Keeping in touch, where no centralised postal system exists
The displaced Somali families, separated by years of internal conflict, continue keeping in touch despite the lack of a centralised postal system. Thanks to the Somali Red Crescent Tracing programme, supported by the ICRC.
The Tracing programme was initiated and implemented by the ICRC in 1991, following the uprising of the civil war which left majority of the Somali people scattered throughout the world. Similar services were introduced in Kenya and Djibouti to facilitate contact among the large number of Somali refugees who fled into these countries. The ICRC then handed over the programme to the SRCS, who established a centralised Tracing system in Mogadishu, in order to build a strong network.
Today, the Red Cross messages are exchanged at 19 SRCS branch offices in Somalia and Somaliland. The tracing services are provided by 24 SRCS Tracing personnel, under the supervision of a Tracing Co-ordinator based at the headquarters in Mogadishu. A total of 20,500 messages have been exchanged from January up to September this year and 273 Tracing cases solved. For the families who only know the country where their relatives were last seen or reported to be, SRCS sends Tracing forms to the BBC Somali service for worldwide broadcast.
With thousands of Somalis still displaced within their homeland or scattered all over the globe, the SRCS tracing programme is still one of the largest and most unique services rendered in a country whose centralised postal system collapsed years ago.
In contact after 30 years
A young lady from an eastern European country wrote a Red Cross tracing message to the ICRC office in Nairobi, in search of her father, whom she had never seen. Attaching a 1968 pho tograph of her father to the request, she narrated every little detail she had heard about the father - that he had studied medicine in Eastern Europe, married a European and left her pregnant to go back to Somalia to set up a home for them. Contact with him was then lost.
The request was dispatched to SR CS tracing office in Mogadishu, where the search began. Within two days, a man was sitting in the Mogadishu Tracing office, excitedly asking endless questions about a 30 year old daughter he had never seen. He wanted to know about the mother, and how she was. Sensing his desperation, the SRCS Tracing Co-ordinator assisted him in writing a Red Cross message (RCM) to his daughter. Today in Mogadishu lives a happy man who constantly communicates with his daughter, trying to catch up on all the years he had missed from her life.