Bangui / N'Djamena (ICRC) – Eleven children from the Central African Republic, who had sought refuge in Chad over a year ago, were reunited with their families on 10 and 11 April 2015. The reunions were coordinated by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), working closely with the Red Cross of Chad and the Central African Red Cross Society.
"This was the first family reunion operation between Chad and the Central African Republic since the violent events of December 2013," said Caroline Martinod, deputy head of the ICRC delegation in Bangui. "It's immensely rewarding to reunite families who have spent months apart, living in anguish."
The children – aged between 7 and 16 – became separated from their families when violence erupted in the Central African Republic at the end of 2013. The armed conflict drove thousands of people to flee within and beyond the country, and many families became scattered in the process.
All but one of the children ended up in refugee camps in Goré and Kobité, in southern Chad. The youngest, Saleh, at just seven years old, was taken in by a family in Baïbokoum, in the far south-west of Chad. ICRC staff and Chadian and Central African Red Cross volunteers tried everything to trace their families and finally located them in the Central African Republic. An ICRC team brought the children to N'Djamena, from where they travelled onwards a few days later to be reunited with their loved ones.
Delighted to be going home, Saleh was also excited to be travelling by plane for the first time: "I've only seen planes in the sky until now, never up close. I can't wait to see my family again and play football with my best friend Hassan." Of the 11 children, two were returned to their families in Paoua, in the north-west of the country, and one returned home to Bambari, in the centre. The other eight were reunited with their families in the capital Bangui.
"The reunions went well and were very emotional," said Amandine Ngario, one of the ICRC's local staff members. "After spending so many months apart, the families were impatient to see the children again and they in turn were very happy to be reunited with their loved ones."
Since the beginning of the crisis in the Central African Republic, the ICRC, working closely with the Central African Red Cross and National Societies in neighbouring countries, has registered 521 unaccompanied children and reunited 55 of them with their families thanks to this region-wide approach. The ICRC has also been involved in returning several dozen other children to their families in partnership with other humanitarian organizations in the Central African Republic.
For further information, please contact:
Germain Mwehu, ICRC Bangui, tel: +236 75 64 30 07
Daphné Lucas, ICRC N'Djamena, tel: +235 66 20 10 05
Céline Buvelot Corthésy, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 22 730 30 84 or +41 79 574 28 89