Restoring Communication and Hope

Story by Christopher Doty, Disaster Program Manager, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

The chaos and confusion of conflict and disaster often separates families. In conflict-ridden nations like the Central African Republic, displacement has been a common occurrence, especially in recent years. The International Committee of the Red Cross along with the Red Cross Movement works to alleviate human suffering by reconnecting families when such separation happens.

The American Red Cross was able to help reconnect a local refugee with his family in the Central African Republic. Arouna* shared how he had spoken to numerous religious and humanitarian organizations, but was unsuccessful in getting assistance. He heard about the reconnecting families service of the Red Cross and came to our offices to open a case.

When going through his back story, we learned about numerous atrocities that had affected his family following the coup of former President Francois Bozize. Arouna knew his cousin had fled but did not know if his cousin’s family was still together or even alive. He continued with stories of the ongoing hardships faced by his cousin and family as they tried to find a place within an environment controlled by numerous warring factions.

Arouna also spoke of other family members affected by the conflict. Sadly his uncle was killed in the fighting. There was a small glimmer of hope though as he had heard rumors that his cousin may be alive, but it was unknown where. Through our discussion we were able to gather contact information for a couple family members that might have known the whereabouts of his cousins, one who was still believed to be in the military and another, a refugee in Cameroon.

Within approximately four months, a Red Cross Message was sent from the Central African Republic back to the American Red Cross.This letter not only stated that the sought person was safe but that he was with his family. It also had a phone number to a refugee camp.

Restoring Family Links case workers quickly delivered this information to Arouna. Later, we learned that he had successfully called his cousin and spoke with him for a couple of hours. The sought person was safe and with his family. He stated that he was unable to leave the refugee camp because of his previous government affiliation but stated that he was treated well. Arouna was so excited to be able to talk to his cousin that he feared was killed and thanked the American Red Cross and International Red Cross Red Crescent for all of their hard work.

*A pseudonym has been used to protect the identity of the client and his family.