As the world commemorates International Day of the Disappeared today, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) says Africa alone has 64,000 cases of missing persons with Nigeria accounting for over 25,000 of the figure.
The head of delegation for the ICRC in Nigeria, Mr. Yann Bonzon, revealed this in a statement issued to mark the International Day of the Disappeared, observed every August 30. He said in the release signed by the communication officer, editor and analyst of the society, Ms Akpa Esther, in Abuja that out of the over 25,000 reported missing in Nigeria, over 14,000 were children.
According to him, there are over 35 active armed conflicts in Africa. He said thousands of people, including children, cross borders, the Sahara Desert, and the Mediterranean Sea in search of safety and better life each year. Bonzon said such movements often entailed great risk, including the risk of disappearance.
He said documented cases of missing persons were on the rise as the society warned that the actual figures were much higher. “Sadly, the almost 14,000 children registered do not capture the full scope of this often-neglected and tragic humanitarian issue. There is no doubt that there are more children whose fate remains unknown,’’ Bonzon said.
He said during displacement, children faced risks such as exploitation, violence, mental distress, and disappearance as many also ended up alone, with no news of their families’ whereabouts. According to him, the society has more than 5,200 documented cases of unaccompanied children in Africa.
The statement also quoted the regional director for ICRC in Africa, Mr. Patrick Youssef as saying that having the right policies in place could save lives. Youssef said it is an essential step to protect migrants and families of missing persons. He said there is the question of humanity and human dignity and that families of the disappeared face immense pain and obstacles that often transcend generations.
“They are stuck in limbo, unable to move forward or grieve. The search for their loved ones never ends,” Youssef said.
He said from January to June 2022, the society together with the Nigerian Red Cross Society (NRCS), assisted in the exchange of 1,250 Red Cross messages containing family news. He further said the society reunited 31 separated children and unaccompanied minors with their families, while 440 phone calls were provided to families to maintain family contact. “In addition, families of 377 persons received information about the whereabouts or fate of their loved ones. While 146 families of missing persons received psychosocial, economic, legal and administrative support through the Accompaniment Programme for Families of the Missing,’’ he said.