Tears of Joy at Family Reunification

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Story written and contributed by Sudanese Red Crescent Society in partnership with the IFRC Sudan Office Delegation

Nelly Muluka, Communications Delegate, IFRC, Sudan and
Emadeddin Al Imam, Tracing Officer, Sudanese Red Crescent Society

Dahab Lam Aldin, 78, could not hold his tears back; the joy of being reunited with a family that he had not seen for close to ten years was too much to bear! Lam Aldin, a victim of complex emergencies was displaced as a result of an inter-tribal war and the Dafur conflict of 2003 -2004.

“I had traveled from Gadarif State of Sudan to visit my relatives in Khor Baranga in West Dafur. While there, an inter-tribal conflict erupted! People ran to different places mainly outside the State; but for me, finding my way to safety and exit on my own proved futile. After a lot of challenges, I found myself in Sani Daliba Area, in South Dafur, but I did not stay there for long because, while I was just settling down, another conflict erupted, this time, the Dafur conflict. Things became more complicated for me and I realized that getting back home would not be as easy as I had thought! It was under these circumstances that I ended up alongside many other families becoming an IDP in AL Serif camp in Nyala, South Dafur,” says Lam Aldin.

Then days changed into weeks, weeks into months and months into years!

“Every day I would walk around the camp, desperately looking for any familiar face, but nothing really came out of it; I slowly started accepting the fact that I would never see my wife and children again. Finally, I settled down to camp life, having completely lost contact with my family in Gadarif Eastern Sudan and any hope of ever seeing them again, says Lam Aldin, adding that this was an emotionally very difficult period for him.

He continues: “Then one day, as I was walking about the camp passing time, this having become routine for me, a Sudanese Red Crescent Society (SRCS) volunteer came to speak to me. I did not know much about the Red Cross Red Crescent movement then. He explained to me about the movement and the National Society’s role in the camp and the possibility of my getting reunited with my family.”

The SRCS volunteer then opened a file for Lam Aldin and a Red Cross Message was sent to his son, who was ten years old when Lam Aldin left home.

“When we get a tracing case like this one, we normally send a message to the family informing them of the whereabouts of their loved one and seek their consent for a reunification to take place,” says Emadeddin Al Iman SRCS Tracing Officer. The Red Cross messages ensure that a beneficiary is in contact with his family, thus, maintaining family links throughout.

With passing of time, Lam Aldin had become physically weak and also had problems with his sight, which had started deteriorating. Through the SRCS networks, tracing the old man’s family was successful. In less than two weeks, the National Society personnel had traced his son, who now works in Gezira State.

“We then worked with our partners International Committee of the Red Cross to ensure a safe and faster reunification; our volunteers traveled with Lam Aldin from the Camp in Nyala South Darfur to Khartoum State where we spent a night. The following day we drove to Gezira to meet his son; the reunion of father and son will always remain on our minds – it was very emotional,” Al Imam.

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After one night in Gezira, the team proceeded with the journey to Gadarif State. There, the rest of the family was waiting for them.

On arrival, husband and wife could not hide their joy. They wept in an embrace that signified a great reunion. The grandchildren who had never seen heir grandfather were also present to welcome him. The family was very grateful for what the SRCS had done for them. They had actually assumed that Lam Aldin had long died.

Al Imam says the SRCS has succeeded in putting smiles on many families’ faces and ending their agony of anxiously looking for missing family members. But he adds that it is not always easy or straight; the organization at times has challenges to overcome.

“In 2013 alone, we have managed to reunite 185 people with their families. But it is not always straight forward. At times we deal with unaccompanied minors who hardly have concrete information about their families. Then at other times there are language barrier issues, cases of families that have migrated and at times we also have to cover long distances in search of victims’ loved ones. At the end of the day, however, there is nothing as satisfying as witnessing that moment when a displaced/missing person is finally and safely handed over to his/her family,“ concludes Al Imam.