Balkans Left Fighting Mud and Garbage Left Behind By Flood

Irish Red Cross + Balkans Floods AppealFlood waters are receding across Serbia, Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, where people are now fighting the mud and the garbage left behind by the flood.

“This is so terrible,” says Verica Marti from Maglaj (Bosnia and Herzegovina). With tears in her eyes and still in a state of disbelief, she had just thrown away the wooden floors of her home, which were soaked in flood water. “This flat was all that I had left from my parents and now I have nothing,” she says.  She used to think of it as her perfect home.

The torrential rains in the Balkans have triggered floods and landslides in some of the poorest areas of the region, affecting over 2 million people and causing considerable damage to homes, livestock and livelihoods, leaving hundreds of thousands of people without water and electricity.

Search and rescue operations are no longer taking place and focus shifted to early recovery stage, with people returning to their damaged houses to clean up debris, and to dry and disinfect their homes.

Local authorities say dozens died in the floods and tens of thousands of people have had to leave their homes. The Red Cross Societies of the three affected Balkan countries are running shelters for evacuees, looking after the daily needs of those who cannot yet return to their homes, providing them with meals, drinking water, hygienic kits and much needed comfort.

While many are beginning to return home, thousands are still in evacuation centers or with host-families as water levels remain high in the Brcko region in Bosnia and Obrenovac in Serbia. In some places, homes have been completely destroyed by landslides.

Mother and daughter reunited after harrowing week of uncertainty

philippines+typhoon+haiyan+reuniting+familyGrandmother and rice farmer Rosita Agustin, 78, spent 90 minutes dangling from the wooden beam of a door frame in her two-bedroom house in Santo Nino, Leyte. Her roof was ripped off and flood water thundered through her village, pummelling everything in its path and killing many of her friends.

And while she was fighting for her life, her daughter Ines Olivier was thousands of miles away on the Pacific island of New Caledonia, paralysed by the fear her mother may be dead.

Rosita said: “In front of my house towards the beach, I could see a giant wave. That’s when I felt a terrible dread. I tried to run to the front door – it was a reflex to want to get out. But in the few seconds it took me to walk, I knew it was already too late.

“I grabbed my big wooden crucifix and climbed on my bed as the water rushed in. I was amazed at how quickly it rose – I could hardly breathe. I grabbed on to my door frame and stayed there for about an hour and a half.”

“When I opened my eyes, I could see the bodies of my neighbours and my friends in the water. Nine bodies of my neighbours, just floating. They drowned.”

As the water subsided in Leyte, Ines was waking to the news in New Caledonia that Typhoon Haiyan had destroyed almost everything in its path and claimed thousands of lives. “I tried to call my mum but I couldn’t get through. I felt sick,” she said. “I was sobbing – I felt totally powerless.”

Mother-of-three Ines contacted the Red Cross asking if Rosita could be traced. And four days later, a team of volunteers visited Santo Nino and clambered over the rubble to Rosita’s neighbourhood.

Rosita was desperate to tell her family she was safe but had no way to communicate with anyone outside the village.

“A Red Cross volunteer came over and asked ‘Are you Rosita Agustin?’ Your daughter is looking for you’ and I hugged him and I kissed him a 1,000 times,” she said.

Less than a week after the storm, Ines arrived in the Philippines and headed straight for the family home. “When I saw her, it was the happiest day of my life. To think she hung on to the door frame for so long is incredible. She’s a very strong woman.”

Ines, a French Red Cross volunteer at home, stayed on in Tacloban to offer her skills as a logistician and help the relief effort.

Philippine Red Cross teams nationwide have been striving to trace more than 20,000 people separated by the storm and are continuing to reunite families in the aftermath of the disaster.

Watch Rosita’s Interview

Search for missing family in Tacloban

As hundreds of families crowded the road towards Tacloban airport, pleading for a place on a plane out of the the destroyed city, Carlito Gaytos strode past the those desperate to escape and headed towards the shell of what was left behind after the storm passed.


Carlito Gaytos travelled from Eastern Samar to Tacloban in the hope of finding his 18-year-old daughter Carizza who has not been in contact since the storm hit.

Carlito had brought nothing with him except the description of his daughter Carizza Gaytos, who has been missing since the storm battered the city to pieces. “I’m here for my daughter, I don’t know where she is,” he said. “We haven’t heard from her since before the storm. We are so worried but I came here because I just have to know, is she dead or is she alive?”

The 46-year-old, from neighbouring Samar island, had managed to get a seat on one of the first commercial flights from Manila to the wrecked Tacloban airport. His house in Eastern Samar has also been damaged but it is still standing. And he wants his 18-year-old daughter home.

Carlito said: “She is a medical technology student here in Tacloban. She was living somewhere in the downtown area. I am not sure where to start. She was doing really well here. We need to find her. Her mother is waiting for her.”

Carlito headed to the Red Cross welfare desk set up on the site of Tacloban City Hall. The team of volunteers have been logging reports of missing people and working to reunite those separated during the disaster.

Red Cross programme manager Ryan Jopia, said  “Many people still just don’t know what has happened to their friends and family – people were separated during the disaster but also people from outside the area are coming here to find the ones they have lost,” he said.

While Carlito waits and hopes for news, others are more fortunate, though no one is untouched by the storm.

On the road to Tacloban airport on Tuesday, two sisters were reunited by chance as they walked through the debris. The women were overcome with emotion as they recognised each other through the driving rain. But the relief turned to despair when the younger sister realised her husband was not with the rest of the family and has not been seen since the storm.

two sisters find each other for the first time after being seperated when Typhoon Haiyan hit. two sisters find each other for the first time after being seperated when Typhoon Haiyan hit. Photo: Red Cross

two sisters find each other for the first time after being seperated when Typhoon Haiyan hit. two sisters find each other for the first time after being seperated when Typhoon Haiyan hit. Photo: Red Cross

Another relative who was with the sisters said: “She thought her husband would be with her sister but he isn’t. They are worried he didn’t survive.”

To contact the Irish Red Cross Restoring Family Links services please email or call (01) 6424600.

Anyone wishing to donate to the Irish Red Cross ‘Typhoon Haiyan’ appeal can do so online at; by phone: 1850 50 70 70; or by cheque made out to ‘Irish Red Cross’ and marked ‘Typhoon Haiyan’ and sent to Irish Red Cross, 16 Merrion Square, Dublin 2.

By Nichola Jones, Red Cross in Tacloban


Reuniting families…it’s all in the day job!

What’s it like to be a Restoring Family Links or RFL Desk Officer? It’s pretty cool actually. Ask anyone that does this job and I guarantee they will say the same!

I have been working for the Irish Red Cross for a long time, nearly 27 years, and have held many positions over the years. But, I would have to say that the best job and the one I have felt most passionate about is this one.

Jennifer Wilson Irish Red Cross RFL

Written by Jennifer Wilson is Restoring Family Links Officer at the Irish Red Cross, Dublin

So ‘what makes it so fantastic?’ I hear you ask! It’s simple. I try to reunite families.

As we all know, family are is everything. What would we do without our families? Sure, they drive us insane sometimes, but what if we couldn’t see them? phone them? Or had no clue where they were? Wouldn’t we go to the end of the earth to find them?

I meet a lot of people in my job, most are looking to find their family members because they have been separated while fleeing their war torn countries or have lost each other on the migratory trail.
They are separated from the ones they love and all they want to know is if their child, husband, wife, mother, father, brother, sister is alive, that they are safe and well.

When I sit with someone to begin the process of helping them find their partner, sibling or child, I always try to imagine how I would feel in their situation. How would I feel if I couldn’t go home every night and see my husband, have a cuddle with my little daughter? I hope I never have to find out.

People arrive with hope. They trust that the Red Cross will be able to find their relative; that they can be reunited and know the joy of hugging their loved one again. It’s a big ask, but one that the Red Cross are dedicated to.

Around the world RFL Desk Officers, just like me, work together to find lost loved ones. We’re not always successful, but when you see the joy on the face of someone who has been told “we’ve found your family” or see the happy tears stream from the eyes of a reunited family, it fills you full of emotion. It makes you proud to be part of an organisation with the capability to reunite families. One that values the family unit.

Today, 30th August, is International Day of the Disappeared. A day to acknowledge and highlight the pain and suffering caused to those waiting for news of separated family.

Today is your chance to participate in helping to restore a family link. All you have to do is hit “share” and spread the word.

Thank you.

by Jen Wilson
RFL Desk Officer at the Irish Red Cross

#DayofDisappeared #IHL

Five Legal Provisions That Aid the Missing and Their Families

Serbia: The families of missing persons strive to make their voices heard.  © ICRC

Serbia: The families of missing persons strive to make their voices heard. © ICRC

When people disappear in connection with armed conflict or other violence, their relatives endure terrible suffering as they struggle to find out what happened.

Here are five examples of International Humanitarian Law that aid the missing and their families:

1. Renewing contact with family members

Article 26 of Geneva Convention IV states that, each Party to the conflict shall facilitate enquiries made by members of families dispersed owing to the war, with the object of renewing contact with one another and of meeting, if possible. It shall encourage, in particular, the work of organisations engaged on this task provided they are acceptable to it and conform to its security regulations.

To assist families separated due to armed conflict, political upheaval, natural disaster, migration and other humanitarian crises the Red Cross Restoring Family Links service helps people to re-establish contact with immediate family members after separation

2. Record personal details of those reported missing

Rule 123. Of customary international humanitarian law states that, all parties to a conflict, be it international or non-international, must record personal details of persons deprived of their liberty. In international armed conflicts, the details recorded pursuant to this rule must be forwarded to the other party and to the Central Tracing Agency at the ICRC.

This rule overlaps with both the prohibition of enforced disappearances and the obligation to account for persons reported missing.

3. Provide for the missing in conflict

Geneva Convention Additional Protocol I, Articles 32 – 34 provide for the missing in conflict

Parties to a conflict shall be prompted by the right of families to know the fate of their relatives (Art. 32). Article 33 also places obligations on States to record the personal details of people detained, imprisoned or otherwise deprived of their liberty and make that information available to the central tracing service of the ICRC. Furthermore at the end of hostilities, parties to an international armed conflict must take measures to search for persons reported missing by an adverse party.

Knowing what has happened to your loved one can be very important for families and Art. 34 places an obligation on states to mark the graves of those killed because of a conflict and to facilitate access for families to the graves or where possible facilitate the repatriation of remains.

4. Enforced disappearances are prohibited

International humanitarian law treaties do not refer to the term “enforced disappearance” as such. However, enforced disappearance violates, or threatens to violate, a range of customary rules of international humanitarian law, most notably the prohibition of arbitrary deprivation of liberty (see Rule 99), the prohibition of torture and other cruel or inhuman treatment (see Rule 90) and the prohibition of murder (see Rule 89).

5. Measures must be taken to account for persons reported missing in conflict

Rule 117. States that, each party to the conflict must take all feasible measures to account for persons reported missing as a result of armed conflict and must provide their family members with any information it has on their fate.
The 30th of August marks the International Day of the Disappeared. It’s the day when we draw attention to the fate of missing people and the lives of their families who cope with the uncertainty of not knowing whether their loved ones are alive or dead.
To learn more about the Irish Red Cross’ role in Restoring Family Links, see



Did you know, the BBC works with the Red Cross Red Crescent together to help find missing people?

Yemen. Every week, Mohamed Hersi, an ICRC tracing officer, meets with Somali nationals seeking refuge in Sana'a to provide them with information on the search for their relatives as well as seeking news from the elders in the group who know the community well. © ICRC / C. Martin-Chico

Yemen. Every week, Mohamed Hersi, an ICRC tracing officer, meets with Somali nationals seeking refuge in Sana’a to provide them with information on the search for their relatives as well as seeking news from the elders in the group who know the community well.
© ICRC / C. Martin-Chico

While the humanitarian situation in Somalia has improved slightly, there remain significant humanitarian concerns across the country. After two decades of fighting, tens of thousands of people have been separated from their families. The whereabouts of at least 12,000 people are unknown. Despite the passing of time, some Somalis are as determined as ever to find their loved ones.

Batulo and her family lost everything during the conflict. She has been living in a camp for displaced people in Mogadishu for four years. It has been four years since she lost touch with her husband. After asking the Red Crescent to locate him, Batulo received news in 2012 that he was in Nairobi, in neighbouring Kenya. The Red Crescent then helped her to contact him.

Despite the increasing availability of mobile phones in Somalia, sending a Red Cross/Red Crescent message is not something from the past. For Somalis who live in camps and in rural areas, it is often the only means of communication at their disposal.

Just after Batulo re-established contact with her husband, he passed away. Batulo continued to send Red Cross/Red Crescent messages to her brother-in-law, and discovered that her husband had fathered more children in Nairobi. Batulo is sad that her husband is gone, but she continues to send family messages to her brother-in-law. She says: “I am very happy because we are getting in touch with people who have been gone for a long time.”

As radio remains the best way of reaching many Somalis, the Red Cross and the BBC have combined their efforts to seek out people whose whereabouts are unknown. After names are collected by the Red Cross/Red Crescent, the BBC Somali Service airs the names during a 15-minute radio programme five times a week. In 2012, 10,000 names were read out.

Hashi, who lives in Mogadishu, has submitted a tracing request to the Red Crescent for his brothers, whom he has not seen since the beginning of the conflict. Holding on to a small radio, he always tunes in to the BBC programme. “I hold this radio to my ear every day,” he says. “I bought it just for this purpose.”

The ICRC has set up a website listing the names of 12,000 people whose families are searching for them.. The Somali diaspora can log in and look for a family member. Everywhere in the world, members of dispersed families seeking to restore contact with each other during or after a crisis can use, a new website that allows them to get in touch with specialists who will provide personal follow-up on enquiries.

Over the last 10 years, the Irish Red Cross has assisted over 300 Somali nationals in Ireland and abroad with requests for tracing and family messaging.
The 30th of August marks the International Day of the Disappeared. It’s the day when we draw attention to the fate of missing people and the lives of their families who cope with the uncertainty of not knowing whether their loved ones are alive or dead.

To learn more about the Irish Red Cross’ role in Restoring Family Links, see


Mother and daughter reunited after 19 years

Isha and her daughter Faduma were reunited by the Red Cross after 19 years apart

Isha and her daughter Faduma were reunited by the Red Cross after 19 years apart

Isha Munya fled war-torn Somalia more than two decades ago; she was faced with the heartbreaking notion of never seeing her loved ones again.

The brutal inter-tribal violence that had broken out across the country scattered her large and close-knit family, forcing Isha to leave her mother Akrabo and one of her daughters, Faduma, then 8, behind.

“My heart was pounding,” Isha recalls of the anguished moment she had to say goodbye. “But it was not a safe place to stay. If we had have stayed, the whole family would have been killed.”

Her departure from Somalia was the beginning of a 19-year separation – a traumatic time of uncertainty as she worried constantly about the welfare of her little girl.

The first eight years were spent in neighbouring Kenya, where Isha, her husband and remaining children lived in four different refugee camps. In 1998 the family was given the opportunity to escape their life of limbo and relocate to Adelaide, in South Australia.

It was in Australia that Isha, determined to unearth the fate of her family members, sought the help of the Red Cross’ Tracing Service, part of the International Red Cross Red Crescent global tracing network.

After discovering that many of her extended family members had died during the war, the Red Cross gave Isha the news she had only dreamed of – Akrabo and Faduma were alive.

Letters and photos were excitedly exchanged and in 2009 Faduma, now almost 30 and with a husband and baby of her own, flew to Adelaide to reunite with her mother.

“When my daughter finally joined me in Adelaide, I felt a huge relief. She was so young when I left her. Today she is married with children.  I didn’t recognise her until she called out: “Mum, mum.” She had really changed.  I started crying.  People at the airport stared at us in surprise.

It was like my daughter had come back from the grave.  I was happy but I could not stop crying.”

Four years later, and mother and daughter are making up for lost time.

Faduma now lives in Adelaide, just a few blocks from Isha’s colourful rug-draped home, and the pair spends precious moments together each day.

And while life together away from war and refugee camps has brought immense joy, there is still one person missing from this happy family picture.

For Isha, reuniting with her Kenya-bound mother Akrabo – whom she continues to contact regularly through the Red Cross – is the final key to lasting happiness.

“It’s the last piece of the puzzle,” she says.

Over the last 10 years, the Irish Red Cross has assisted over 300 Somali nationals in Ireland and abroad with requests for tracing and family messaging.

The 30th of August marks the International Day of the Disappeared. It’s the day when we draw attention to the fate of missing people and the lives of their families who cope with the uncertainty of not knowing whether their loved ones are alive or dead.

To learn more about the Irish Red Cross’ role in Restoring Family Links, see


Accessing international protection: That’s Right!

A joint action to safeguard the right to access international protection

On the occasion of World Refugee Day, the Irish Red Cross, along with other European National Red Cross Societies, wish to reaffirm the right of all human beings to access international protection.

While we are celebrating the achievements of the 1951 Refugee Convention, the Irish Red Cross and other European National Red Cross Societies have launched the THAT’S RIGHT! joint action aimed at reminding all partners that seeking asylum is a right that Member States should uphold under EU and International Law. We wish to raise awareness amongst the general public, decision makers and opinion leaders and to underline that the right to access international protection requires the setting up of adequate legal avenues. National Societies of the Red Cross have a role to play in ensuring that migrants are provided with all necessary support and help to effectively protect their lives, dignity and health.

Regular news and reports have shown that EU policies aimed at preventing third country nationals from entering the Union’s territory have negative consequences on migrants that, in search of safety, are forced to take more dangerous routes. Consequently, the number of factors affecting migrants’ vulnerabilities along the migratory route is increasing. These often include smuggling, trafficking, rape, abuse, robbery, absence of status and family separation.

Watch the World Disasters Report on Forced Migration video

The Red Cross has a long standing tradition of providing humanitarian assistance to the most vulnerable in society. Many Red Cross projects aim at addressing the particular needs and vulnerabilities of all migrants irrespective of their legal status by implementing specific activities for the benefit of migrants, including asylum seekers and refugees. In this regard, Red Cross Societies in Europe provide reception services, integration support and psychosocial attention. Based on this extensive operational experience, European National Red Cross Societies are today stressing that the actions taken by the EU and its Member States to prevent the irregular entry of migrants affect potential asylum seekers in their quest for international protection in EU countries. Many of these individuals have no other choice but to seek asylum in EU countries after having been forced to flee their homes and families by fear of persecution.

The THAT’S RIGHT! joint action is part of our ongoing call for governments to ensure that migrants, irrespective of their legal status, have access to the support that they need and that they are treated at all times with respect and dignity. In November 2011, 164 governments agreed to this principle at the 31st International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. At the same time, the Irish Red Cross, adopted, along with other members of the PERCO network[1] a position on the need to effectively guarantee the rights of migrants to seek asylum and to a fair asylum procedure. In November 2012, nine policy recommendations were put forward to support the setting up of legal avenues to access international protection within the EU. THAT’S RIGHT! joint action provides an opportunity to repeat the basic demands and claims expressed in the 2011 PERCO position paper on the Right to Access to International Protection.

Read more:

PERCO Position paper on the right to access to international protection, October 2011

PERCO, Position paper on the Need to Create Legal Avenues to Access International Protection within the European Union, November 2012

[1] PERCO, the Platform for European Red Cross Cooperation on Refugees, Asylum Seekers and Migrants is a network of migration experts from National Red Cross Societies of Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Italy, Ireland, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Serbia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.



Rebuilding lives and livelihoods after the storm has passed

Bangladesh is one of the most vulnerable countries in the world to climate risks, tropical cyclones and storm surges, affecting hundreds of thousands of people each year. It is also one of the poorest and most densely-populated countries on the Asian continent.

“The storm started at three in the morning and continued until seven. I felt that the roof would collapse anytime. I got out with my family and moments after, my house crashed,” said Mohammad Shahidullah, a day-labourer in a remote coastal area battered by a tropical storm in October 2012.

“It was not safe to stay outside because the wind was so fierce. We ran to a neighbour’s house to seek safety. It was especially difficult for my mother. We barely made it out when the house came down,” said Shahid, as he’s known locally.

Bangladesh was hit yet again by a severe storm in the coastal districts of Noakhali, Bhola and Chittagong. The storm developed so fast that the communities in the affected area had little warning that it was approaching. The cyclonic storm claimed 36 lives and left a trail of destruction in its wake. Homes were swept away, boats and fishing nets destroyed, acres of farmland damaged and livelihoods lost.

Shahid was woken from his sleep by the sounds of howling winds. His rickety house was shaking from the storm raging outside. Sensing something wrong, he rushed to wake up his wife, two daughters and 90-year old mother. They narrowly escaped from being buried under their collapsed home.

Shahid and his family returned home once the winds subsided only to find their home completely destroyed. They built a makeshift shelter out of cardboard. The family had no savings, no financial resources to purchase materials to rebuild a new shelter.

“The Red Crescent provided us with tarpaulin, 2,000 taka (23 Swiss francs or 24 US dollars), rice and drinking water,” explains Shahid. “I used the tarpaulin that I received to cover the roof of my house. It gave us immediate refuge. Later with the 2,000 taka, I got my house repaired. I put together old tins, the tarpaulin, bamboos, hays, and nailed everything together to have a place to sleep.”

Shahid also explained how the rice helped his family get through the first week after the storm, “The Red Crescent has been a friend in time of trouble. How else could I have fed my children and old mother if they did not give me rice?”

Shahid’s story is one that is repeated throughout the storm-hit communities. While many people have been able to return to their damaged houses to begin rebuilding their lives, they remain vulnerable.

“Storms in Bangladesh happen so often that it no longer attracts much attention from the public, but the fact is those who are affected are often in vulnerable situations already. Although people have developed some coping mechanisms over the years, they still need our assistance.” says Tsehayou Seyoum, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) country representative in Bangladesh. “Most of the communities living in the affected areas are already living in poverty. They have no insurance, no savings to fall back on and they sink deeper into poverty.”

Volunteers and staff from the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society provided emergency relief to almost 25,000 people of the affected islands including food, drinking water, and emergency shelter. Families also receive small cash grants to meet other immediate needs.

“As well as providing relief assistance, it’s important we begin helping people take control of their own recovery and begin rebuilding their lives and livelihoods.” Says Bangladesh Red Crescent’s Secretary General Abu Bakar.

The European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department (ECHO) financially supported this recent Red Cross Red Crescent tropical storm response as well the response to another storm and resulting floods in June, July and August in the northern and southeast regions of Bangladesh.

 About the Silent Disasters Campaign

Nine out of ten Red Cross and Red Crescent disaster responses are to what we call ‘silent disasters’.  These types of disasters rarely – if ever – reach international headlines.

This month alone, flash floods and landslides in Peru have affected 48,000 people; shockingly low temperatures of minus 35 to minus 55 degrees Celsius in Tajikistan will affect 6,000 people; and a volcano eruption in Indonesia has forced entire communities of thousands to leave their homes. These are only three examples of where the Red Cross and Red Crescent has responded to so-called silent disasters this month.

Every day, the Red Cross and Red Crescent responds to all disasters—big or small—and also works alongside people to help them prepare for a future where disasters are likely to be more frequent.

Come back here over the next month to read about how the IFRC, our Red Cross partners in Europe and the European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection (ECHO) joined together to respond to recent silent disasters and how we are preparing people not only for the headline-grabbing disasters, but also the more frequent silent disasters.

These disasters are anything but silent to those who must live with their effects.


By Maherin Ahmed in Dhaka

Photo: Asiya Khatun showing the length of the water level during flash flood. Maherin Ahmed/IFRC

“Seeing your family again after 43 years – it’s like being born again”

It all began during the Battle of Solferino in 1859.  By sending a message from a wounded young man to his parents, Henry Dunant made the first gesture illustrating what the Red Cross Tracing Agency was to become.

The Red Cross’ agency on maintaining and restoring family links developed considerably during the Franco-Prussian War in 1870, under the name Basle Agency. During the First and Second World Wars it took on a crucial role as the focus of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) humanitarian action and the agency’s then name of “Central Agency for Prisoners of War”, expressed the focus of its work.

From 1945, the agency started to provide help to non-prisoner civilians and refugees. In 1960 the name “Central Tracing Agency” was adopted, as the former name no longer corresponded to the new activities the agency provided. By then the Central Tracing Agency’s work was also taking account of victims of internal conflicts and had extended its activities to searching for victims of natural disasters.

The ICRC today continues to uphold its role of protecting and assisting victims of international and non-international armed conflict and other situation of violence. Amongst its diverse range of humanitarian initiatives, it plays an important task in reminding authorities of their obligations with regard to family links.

Today, Restoring Family Links work takes place in an ever-changing environment to which the Movement must respond and adapt. This includes the increase of natural and man-made disasters and the increasing internal and international population movement. To ensure that the Red Cross movement can continue to respond to current and emerging trends in needs in relation to reuniting family members, a strategy was adopted in 2007 to reaffirm the Red Cross Movement’s commitment to RFL and proposed three objectives:

  • Improving RFL capacity and performance
  • Enhancing co-ordination and intra-Movement co-operation and
  • Strengthening the support for RFL

National Societies of the Red Cross and Red Crescent throughout the world have an important role to play as the components of this international network for tracing and reuniting families. One example of the strength of the grassroots network is provided by the story of a Libyan man who fled his country in 1968 and settled in Switzerland. For decades, he was totally cut off from relatives and friends. This year, with help from the ICRC and the Swiss Red Cross, he was able to get back in contact with his loved ones in Libya and go visit them.

“Seeing your family again after 43 years – it’s like being born again” said Mr Al Naji, overwhelmed by emotion as he set foot on Libyan soil.

A new family-links website,, has been recently launched by the ICRC to help members of dispersed families restore contact with each other. The new website will provide information on tracing services available in every part of the world, contact details of national Red Cross and Red Crescent societies and ICRC delegations, and other useful resources.

While the chief purpose of will be to serve people searching for loved ones, the

Written by Jennifer Wilson is Restoring Family Links Officer at the Irish Red Cross, Dublin

Written by Jennifer Wilson is Restoring Family Links Officer at the Irish Red Cross, Dublin

website may also be of interest to humanitarian organizations and welfare service providers to whom these people have turned for help. The site will also serve as a platform for exchanges between tracing specialists.

To learn more about the Irish Red Cross’ role in Restoring Family Links see