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ICRC Campaigns to Reunite Families in North Kivu

The International Committee of the Red Cross is launching a campaign to reunite children separated from their families while fleeing the conflict in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo's North Kivu province.

The International Committee of the Red Cross says the ordeal for many families in North Kivu continues, despite a drop in the intensity of fighting between government and rebel troops in recent days.

It says it and other humanitarian organizations are closely following recent contacts between Congolese and Rwandan officials. The Red Cross says it hopes dialogue between these two nations will facilitate aid operations.

In the meantime, Red Cross Spokesman, Marcal Izard, says the ICRC is pursuing its activities for victims of the conflict.

In this regard, he says the Red Cross is launching a campaign to speed up identification of children separated from their parents so they can be reunited with their families.

"In the last two months, when the fighting broke out again, when people fled in the panic, many kids were left behind. So, together with the Congolese Red Cross, which has an excellent network of branches all over North Kivu, we started this week a new campaign," said Izard. "We are using four local radio stations, three times a day to announce a list of names of children who are looking for their parents. We already were able in the first week to locate 15 families of 15 kids."

He calls this a promising start. Izard says, the agency has registered 134 children since the end of October. He says this number appears very low.

He notes more than 250,000 people have become displaced in North Kivu since August. Therefore, he says it is likely the number of children who have lost their parents is considerably higher.

"What we now try to do with this campaign through the radio and also through posters that we put everywhere in the schools, in the health centers, in the IDP [internally displaced persons] camps, is to make the people aware of this service of connecting again kids with their families," he said.

In addition, Izard says, the ICRC is putting photographs of lost children in places where displaced people congregate. He says this campaign is similar to one the ICRC ran in Rwanda after the 1994 genocide.