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Central African Republic: Hundreds of families torn apart by conflict

By International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)
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GENEVA, Switzerland, March 18, 2015/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- Hundreds of people in the Central African Republic have no news of their loved ones following the conflict and other armed violence in the country. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), working closely with the Central African Red Cross Society, is pursuing its efforts to help these people trace and contact their relatives.

Forced to leave their homes in search of safety elsewhere in the country or in neighbouring countries, many families became split up as they fled. Children and adults alike became separated from the rest of their families and in many cases have heard nothing for months on end. This uncertainty is a torment, making daily life even harder to bear.

Worry and uncertainty takes its toll on the whole family. The longer it goes on, the greater their despair and anguish. Those separated from their families undergo an ordeal. Alone, without their family's protection and support, individuals – especially children – are even more vulnerable. “While the conflict and other violence persists, this problem is unlikely to be resolved any time soon,” said Ahmed Berrad, who runs the ICRC's protection activities in the Central African Republic.

ICRC staff and Central African Red Cross volunteers are striving to alleviate the suffering of those affected. They try to trace the missing people and, wherever possible, restore contact between family members. “In most cases, just getting news of their loved ones is a huge psychological relief for the families and restores their hope,” said Mr Berrad. “With their consent, we prioritize reuniting children with an adult family member.”

In 2014, the ICRC and the Central African Red Cross registered more than 561 people separated from their families. Their tracing efforts, both in the country and abroad, have resulted in 108 children and three vulnerable adults being reunited with their families, while the fate of a further 38 people reported missing was clarified. Relatives kept apart by the conflict were also able to stay in touch thanks to the delivery of over 650 Red Cross messages (short, written messages containing family news) and 172 phone calls facilitated by the ICRC.

In a conflict that has driven some people to seek refuge beyond the borders of the Central African Republic, the ICRC – which is also present in neighbouring countries – is able to adopt a regional approach to this issue. Stretching from the refugee camps of Likouala in the far north of the Republic of the Congo to the camps of Moundou in southern Chad, the ICRC and the National Red Cross Societies tirelessly continue their efforts to trace loved ones torn apart by the fighting. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 2014, the ICRC traced and registered 113 unaccompanied children from the Central African Republic, as well as two demobilized children, one of whom was repatriated to the Central African Republic. Other children who fled the conflict in the Central African Republic were also registered in Chad (16), Cameroon (5) and the Republic of the Congo (4) and subsequently reunited with their families.

In the Central African Republic between 25 January and 28 February 2015, the ICRC, in cooperation with the Central African Red Cross:

• performed over 150 operations at Bangui community hospital and referred over 20 patients from Kaga Bandoro regional hospital;

• carried out over 500 emergency consultations at Bangui community hospital and over 3,000 consultations at Kaga Bandoro regional hospital;

• carried out 700 general consultations and over 140 prenatal consultations at Dissikou health centre;

• carried out 890 consultations and treated 758 patients for malaria in Obo and Birao;

• evacuated 38 wounded people to Kaga Bandoro regional hospital;

• distributed food to 11,000 displaced people in Bangui;

• distributed food to over 3,000 displaced people along the route between Bambari and Ippy;

• distributed food to 120 families with malnourished children being treated at Kaga Bandoro hospital;

• continued supplying an average of 220,000 litres of clean drinking water a day to displaced people who have sought refuge at Bangui airport;

• guaranteed the drinking water supply for the population of Ndélé (250,000 litres of water per week through the SODECA national water network and 4,000 litres per day direct to Ndélé hospital);

• distributed 250,000 litres of clean drinking water per day to displaced people in Kaga Bandoro;

• supplied between 375,000 and 490,000 litres of clean drinking water per week to displaced people in Bambari;

• supplied 20,000 litres of clean drinking water per week to Bambari regional hospital;

• ran awareness-raising sessions on international humanitarian law for 470 members of the Central African armed forces and 150 members of armed groups;

• worked with 300 representatives of women's and youth groups in various districts of Bangui to raise awareness of the mission and work of the Red Cross.

Also during this period, ICRC delegates visited 76 detainees.