Liberia: Tracing the lost Generation

Tuesday, 7 January, 2003, 17:39 GMT

Tracing Liberia’s lost generation

Posters have been put up across Liberia

By Jonathan Paye-Layleh
BBC, Monrovia

A new strategy to reunite children forced into exile by the ongoing rebellion in Liberia has caught the public imagination in the capital, Monrovia.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the local Red Cross society, have posted the photographs of over 600 unaccompanied children around Liberia to be identified and reunited by their parents.

Some lucky families have already been reunited

Excited people have been queuing up to look at photographs of children, which are on display at hospital and school compounds, market places and camps for people displaced by the fighting.
According to a statement distributed by ICRC’s Head of Mission, Dominique Liengme, more than 1,000 unaccompanied Liberian children have been registered in Guinea and Sierra Leone.
Those are children who found themselves in those countries between 2001 and 2002.
Under the tracing and reunification exercise, relatives who recognise their children on the posters can contact the nearest Red Cross volunteer, and the process to reunite them then begins.
‘Good news’
 In Monrovia alone, 80 people have so far identified their children since ICRC began putting the posters up at the end of last month.
The head of ICRC’s Tracing Department in Liberia, Marcel Stoessel, told reporters that of the 80, 20 cases have been resolved and “by today or tomorrow, we will go to the parents and give them the good news.”

Many Liberian families have been divided by the war

The tracing exercise has crossed the border into the Ivory Coast as well, but on a small scale.
At least one Liberian child has been found lately in the Tarbou region and reunited with their family in Liberia, while another five to six cases have now been reported in the same area.
ICRC officials could not say how much money the tracing and reunification programme would cost.
But Mr Liengme said the organisation’s annual operating budget in Liberia has been increased to around $18 million this year.

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