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Rwanda: 700th child reunited with relatives thanks to photo-tracing programme

03-12-1998 News Release 98/48

His nickname is " Bitama " , which means " chubby baby " in Kinyarwanda. When he was first seen by ICRC delegates in 1997 he was unable to tell them who his parents were. He had been repatriated alone, no one had claimed him, and all he could remember was his nickname.

Nonetheless, on 27 November the ICRC was able to reunite him with his grandmother, who had recognized his picture in an album containing photographs of countless other young children and had provided ICRC delegates with personal details that proved he really was her grandson. According to his grandmother, Bitama was born in 1992 in Masaka, near Kigali, and both his parents were dead.

Bitama was the 700th child to be reunited with a relative under a photo-tracing programme launched in May 1997 in cooperation with UNICEF. Three albums containing a total of 1,655 photographs of young children have been published so far, and 10,000 copies of each have been distributed throughout the country to associations and local authorities which display the photos where the public can easily see them. The photo-tracing concept was developed for children who are either too young or too traumatized to provide the information needed to start up normal reunification proceedings.

The ICRC is continuing to search for the relatives of some 5,200 other children who are currently being looked after by host families or orphanages. Since 1994 more than 48,000 unaccompanied children have been reunited with at least one of their relatives in Rwanda.

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