The joy and frustration of working on restoring family links

Published: 18 December 2013 23:05 CET

By Nelly Muluka, IFRC

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. He 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,” he says. “People ran to different places mainly outside the state. But it was difficult for me to find my way to safety. I found myself in Sani Daliba Area, in South Dafur, but did not stay there for long because just as I was just settling down, the Dafur conflict erupted.

“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 at the AL Serif camp in Nyala, South Dafur.”

Days stretched into weeks, weeks into months and months into years. Eventually, Lam Aldin accepted the situation. “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,” he says.

It was at the camp that Lam Aldin met a volunteer of the Sudanese Red Crescent Society. He did not know much about the Red Cross Red Crescent then. The volunteer explained to him about the work of the Movement and the National Society’s role in the camp and the possibility of him being reunited with his family.

The volunteer started the process of reconnecting him with his family. Through networks on the ground the society was able to trace Lam Adin’s son who was ten years old at the time he left home, and in less than two weeks, the National Society had found his son, who now works in Gezira State.

The Sudan Red Crescent then worked tirelessly to ensure a safe and faster reunification. Volunteers drove him to Gezira to meet his son to an emotional reunion and later to Gadarif State where 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 their grandfather were also present to welcome him. The family was very grateful for what the Sudanese Red Crescent had done for them. They had assumed that Lam Aldin was long dead.

“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, Sudanese Red Crescent Society’s Tracing Officer. The Red Crescent ensures that the family maintains its links throughout the reunification process.

“In 2013 alone, we have managed to reunite 185 people with their families. But it is not always as straight forward as was with Lam Aldin’s case. We sometimes deal with unaccompanied minors who often don’t have concrete information about their families,” Al Iman says. “There are also issues of language barriers, cases of families that have migrated and the long distances we have to cover in search of families.

“At the end of the day, however, there is nothing as satisfying as witnessing that moment when a displaced or missing person is safely handed over to their family.”

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