More than 25,000 children missing in Africa, says ICRC

Some 64,000 people are unaccounted for in Africa, including at least 25,000 minors, according to an estimate by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), which aims to put the spotlight on a continent marked by conflict and natural disasters on the occasion of the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances.

The organization’s director for Africa, Patrick Youssef, has warned that even these figures “do not capture the full magnitude” of the tragedy, since “there is no doubt that there are more children unaccounted for” than the latest report shows.

Not surprisingly, there are more than thirty active armed conflicts and migration remains a constant, both of which contribute to the loss of both adults and children. The ICRC is also aware of more than 5,200 unaccompanied minors in Africa.

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Amina lost her parents to an attack in the Malian village where they lived and fled with her younger brother to Niger. After four years separated from her family, the ICRC was able to locate her aunt, with whom they now aspire to be reunited.

“When I saw her picture, I felt better because I hadn’t heard from her in three or four years,” says Amina after speaking to her aunt on the phone. “I can’t wait for the time when we will be reunited and we can all sit together,” she adds.

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Youssef has urged governments to implement policies that “can save lives,” for example by protecting migrants and relatives of missing persons, as “a matter of humanity and dignity.” The ICRC helped in 2021 to locate 4,200 people and reunited some 1,200 families across Africa.

Families of the missing, he has warned, “face immense pain and obstacles that often transcend generations.” “They are trapped in limbo, unable to move forward or move past grief. The search for their loved ones never ends,” he noted.

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