South Sudan: Thousands missing because of conflict and violence
Juba (ICRC) – As the world marks the International Day of Missing Persons, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is following more than 4,000 cases of missing South Sudanese. Most of them went missing because they were forced to flee violence and lost contact with their loved ones.
"Each of these cases represents a family who is searching and living with the agony of not knowing what happened to their loved one," said James Reynolds, ICRC's Head of Delegation in South Sudan. "Some of these families haven't heard from their relatives for years and can't move on. They wait for a husband, a son, a sister and suffer social, economic and psychological consequences."
In 2019, the ICRC registered 451 missing people in South Sudan, bringing the total caseload to 4,225. However, with about four million people displaced inside and outside of the country, and the challenges to access some areas or limited cellular networks, the number of missing people in South Sudan is probably higher.
The International Day of Missing Persons is an occasion to recall the consequences of having a missing relative and the need to build legal frameworks to support people looking for loved ones.
"Under international law, states have the obligation to prevent people from going missing and if people go missing, they have a responsibility to clarify their fate and whereabouts," said Reynolds. "A legal framework in South Sudan would translate the international legal obligations of the state into practical actions to register and trace missing people as well as provide support to their families."
To support families looking for their missing relatives, The Family Links Network of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement offers a broad range of services, starting with the registration of tracing requests. The ICRC tries to match the data collected in these requests with other available information. The organization uses a variety of tools to help people restore contact with their loved ones, including letters known as Red Cross Messages as well as phone calls. During the six first months of 2019, the ICRC, with the support of the South Sudan Red Cross, facilitated nearly 7,500 phone calls between family members and helped exchange 1,450 Red Cross Messages.