Africa: 44,000 People Registered As Missing On the Continent, Nearly Half of Them Children


Nairobi, Kenya — As 30 August marks International Day of the Disappeared, nearly 44,000 people across Africa are registered as missing with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) at a time when restrictions put in place to curb COVID-19 create new challenges in searching for missing people. Forty-five percent of the cases were children at the time they went missing.

“This caseload is a drop in the ocean to the true scale of people whose family members are searching for them,” said Sophie Marsac, the regional advisor for the missing and their families in Africa for the ICRC. “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.”

Nigeria, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Somalia, Libya, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Cameroon make up 82 percent of ICRC’s missing caseload in Africa. 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.

“My son’s disappearance has left me in desperation, feeling that he is coming back. In the first two months, I locked myself in the house, emotionally depressed,” said Juma Kedai Korok, 52, whose 31-year-old son was abducted four years ago by an armed group in South Sudan. He has had no word since. “Dear son Konyi, if you are still alive and listening to me, your sisters, brothers, aunties, and the whole family are waiting for you. We just want to hear your voice and see you.”