The latest figures for disappeared persons across Africa stands at 64,000 cases, with Nigeria recording over 25,000 missing people, says the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
Yann Bonzon, head of the delegation for the Red Cross in Nigeria, disclosed this in a statement issued to journalists to commemorate the International Day of the Disappeared, observed every August 30.
The statement was signed by Akpa Esther, spokeswoman for the Nigerian Red Cross in Abuja.
Ms Bonzon said 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 added that thousands of people, including children, cross borders, the Sahara Desert and the Mediterranean Sea in search of safety and better life each year.
Mr Bonzon further stated that such movements often entailed great risk, including the risk of disappearance. He explained that 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 does 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,” Mr Bonzon added.
He also noted that 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 Red Cross has more than 5,200 documented cases of unaccompanied children in Africa.
Patrick Youssef, regional director for ICRC in Africa, said having the right policies could save lives and that it was an essential step to protect migrants and families of missing persons.
Mr Youssef also mentioned that there was a question of humanity and human dignity and that families of the disappeared faced 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,” Mr Youssef said.
He stressed that in 2022 from January to June, the ICRC, together with the Nigerian Red Cross Society (NRCS), assisted in exchanging 1,250 Red Cross messages containing family news.
Mr Youssef also stated that the Red Cross 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. (NAN)