New ICRC report sheds light on the plight of the families of missing people

Courtesy photo

By ICRC –Juba 

On the International Day of the Disappeared (30th-August-2022), the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) shares the findings of a recent study on the needs of South Sudanese families who live the anguish of not knowing the whereabouts of one or more of their family members.

“We hope that this report will not only enable a better response to the specific needs of these families but will also draw public attention to the unbearable suffering they endure. The tragedy of missing persons is a humanitarian crisis that cannot be forgotten easily, but can be prevented in the future,” said Sophie Marsac who is in charge of the ICRC’s program that helps people maintain contact with their loved ones.

The report titled “I did not know where to start” is based on 181 interviews with families of missing people, seven focus group discussions, and two additional interviews with people who had been previously counted as missing related to conflict, armed violence, or other crisis. Its findings indicate that the priority needs for 86% of families of the missing in and outside South Sudan are to know what happened to their loved ones. In addition, 60% struggle to cope with mental health-related issues and 57% experience economic problems. Other difficulties include searching for the missing loved one, legal and administrative challenges, and the need for acknowledgment and justice. 

“I hardly sleep, I am always thinking about him since he disappeared,” said a Bentiu resident, whose husband has been missing since 2013. “I feel it in my heart that my husband is alive. I still have hope.”

Over 5,700 cases of missing people are currently being followed by the ICRC and the South Sudan Red Cross. The actual number of missing people in South Sudan is probably much higher, as most disappearances are not registered or documented. A third of the disappeared persons registered with the ICRC were children when they went missing.

The ICRC calls on the 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.

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