The Missing: Bringing Clarity and Comfort amid the Anguish

Disappearances are a reality, whether linked to war, migration or disasters.

They happen for different reasons, but the suffering of the families is the same. So is the need for documentation to provide answers to the agonizing uncertainty – even though finding answers might take a very long time and for some families, there will never be a definitive answer.

There are a host of practical issues which families face. They may be left without a breadwinner, while having to spend their dwindling resources on the search. They may need to confront legal and administrative hurdles. Many also need emotional support as they face feelings of isolation, sadness and marginalization.

On International Day of the Disappeared, we highlight:

The right to know: The struggle families face to receive credible information on the fate of missing loved ones:

Story from Sri Lanka  | Story from Syria

Economic security: The need for financial support as families try to find new ways of making a living, amid the limbo of dealing with the disappearance of a relative:

Story from Armenia

Legal and administrative: The need for help to confront the bureaucratic obstacles that arise when a family member is missing but not acknowledged as dead.

Story from Mexico

Psychosocial: The need for emotional support as families face the anguish of ambiguous loss and try to pursue their lives, in the absence of any answers.

Story from Uganda  | Story from Azerbaijan

Commemoration: The way families can remember missing loved ones and pay tribute to their memory.

Story from Peru

The ICRC provides long term support in order to overcome these difficulties and help families regain control of their lives. We also seek to persuade governments and other actors to put the issue of the missing on their agenda and do more to help meet their needs. Click here for more information on the ICRC's work.

Addressing the needs of families of the missing

In this video, we meet three people from different corners of the globe, each with a unique story about someone close who has gone missing – a man in Uganda searching for his son, and a woman in Mexico and a woman in Georgia, both looking for their brothers.

Trace the face: People looking for missing migrants in Europe

Red Cross and Red Crescent societies across Europe are publishing photos of people looking for their missing relatives, online and in posters, in the hope of reconnecting families.

Are you looking for a missing family member or loved one? If you are in the United States, please visit redcross.org/reconnectingfamilies. Otherwise, please visit the ICRC’s Restoring Family Links website.