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Great Lakes: ICRC reunites two children with their families

15-08-2003 News Release 03/95

Last Wednesday, the ICRC was able to repatriate a Rwandan teenager who had been separated from his family since the fighting in 1994. The 17-year-old headed home from Brazzaville in the Republic of the Congo to Kigali via Kinshasa and Goma (Democratic Republic of the Congo - DRC) after exchanging several Red Cross messages and photos with his family. Importantly, both he and his relatives had confirmed that they wanted to be together again - the ICRC would have cancelled the operation if the boy had said "no".

The same day, Solange returned to her home country (the RDC) and was reunited with her mother in Kinshasa. She had been living as a refugee in Pointe-Noire (Republic of the Congo) when the ICRC restored contact between mother and daughter.

For many of these children, the decision to go home is a difficult one. They want to be with their families, but have often spent many years in their host countries. Going home means being uprooted, again.

The deciding factor is often a yearning to be part of a family, just like other children. What also plays a role is that some of these children have received Red Cross messages from children they met in their host counties, telling them that they are now with their own families. Knowing it has worked out for others often makes a difference.

The ICRC pays all costs incurred in tracing children under 18 and reuniting them with their families. To track down families scattered by the numerous conflicts that have ravaged central Africa in recent years, the ICRC uses a unique network - dozens of Red Cross contacts in Rwanda, Uganda, Burundi, the RDC and the Republic of the Congo, plus over 30 ICRC delegations, sub-delegations and offices in these countries. Since 1994, that system has reunited thousands of children with their families.

In 2003, the ICRC delegation in the Republic of the Congo contributed to this operation by helping 11 children rejoin their families abroad. The delegation also distributed almost 3,000 Red Cross messages and collected 2,000.

 Further information:  

 Olivier Bangerter, ICRC Brazzaville, tel.: ++ 242 50 30 17/18;  

 Roland Sidler, ICRC Geneva, tel.: ++41 22 730 20 45, ++41 79 217 32 58