The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said on Wednesday it has registered nearly 44,000 people as missing in Africa with nearly half of them being children.
The charity said Nigeria, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Somalia, Libya, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Cameroon make up 82 percent of ICRC’s missing caseload in Africa.
Sophie Marsac, regional advisor for the missing and their families in Africa for the ICRC, said the move comes at a time when restrictions put in place to curb COVID-19 create new challenges in searching for missing people
“This caseload is a drop in the ocean to the true scale of people whose family members are searching for them,” Marsac said in a statement issued in Nairobi ahead of the Aug. 30 International Day of the Disappeared.
“Conflict, violence, migration, and climate shocks have not stopped separating families in the pandemic, but our work to find missing people has become even harder,” she said.
The highest among them is Nigeria which at nearly 23,000 people is ICRC’s largest caseload of missing people in the continent, driven almost entirely by the conflict in the northeast of the country.
“All seven countries have seen a rise in the number of people registered with the ICRC as missing in the first half of 2020,” it said.
“Many countries suspended domestic travel between states or provinces, making it more difficult for searches to be done over wider geographic areas. Access to places of detention, where the ICRC would look for cases, is suspended in some places to limit the risk of COVID-19 exposure,” said ICRC.
The ICRC called on authorities to acknowledge the tragedy of missing people and the impact that it has on families and to do everything in their power to prevent people from going missing, take measures to search for those who are missing, and to provide information to families on the fate and whereabouts of their loved ones.
“International Day of the Disappeared should remind us that an untold number of families in Africa are searching for a loved one, many of them parents looking for a child,” said Marsac.
“Families of the missing often suffer psychologically and face economic and legal challenges. The tragedy of missing people is a humanitarian crisis and one that cannot be forgotten as the world focuses on fighting the COVID-19 pandemic,” she added.