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Liberia: Cross-border reunifications back on track

19-11-2003 News Release 03/146

For the first time since February, the ICRC today reunited children living in Guinea with their families in Liberia. Six Liberian children were returned to their loved ones in Monrovia.

Originally from Lofa county, the youngsters fled the war in 2002 and had been living in refugee camps in Guinea for the past two years. They were flown to the Liberian capital in a light aircraft that the ICRC has been using since February 2001 to reunite separated families.

The organization is currently handling the cases of more than 900 unaccompanied Liberian children in Guinea. The families of almost 400 of them have been located by means of Red Cross messages (brief personal messages to relatives who are otherwise unreachable owing to armed conflict). In January and February 2003 the ICRC repatriated 42 Liberian children but these transfers had to be suspended because of fighting.

All ICRC delegations in West Africa share information about children separated from their families by war and work together to trace their relatives. If a family member recognizes a child in a photo, the ICRC crosschecks information provided by him or her with information from the child. Once the family link has been verified, the relative is invited to write a Red Cross message to the child, and the child may ask to go and live with him.

A month ago the ICRC launched a mass tracing campaign throughout West Africa entitled " Where are our parents? " . The pictures of 707 Liberian children registered by the organization in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea, Côte d'Ivoire and Ghana are currently on posters in places such as markets, schools, hospitals and camps for displaced people and refugees.

The ICRC has opened two new offices in the country, in Zwedru and Voinjama. Its activities include support for medical facilities, water-and-sanitation projects, providing civilians with emergency supplies, visiting detainees, restoring family ties, promoting international humanitarian law and working with the Liberian National Red Cross Society.

 For further information please contact:  

 Virginia de la Guardia, ICRC Monrovia, tel. +377 47 528 089