By Michael Olugbode
Maiduguri — International Committee on the Red Cross (ICRC) has revealed that the fate and whereabouts of about 17,000 persons remain a mystery in Nigeria as a result of conflicts.
In its latest facts and figures on contributions in Nigeria, it said it was working in conjunction with its Nigeria subsidiary, the Nigeria Red Cross Society (NRCS) to clarify the fate and whereabouts of about 17,000 missing persons in Nigeria, including over 7,100 missing children.
The ICRC said, “Many people have lost contact with family members when fleeing armed conflict and other situations of violence. Some families have been missing loved ones for years and, at the same time, cycles of displacement create new losses of family contact every day.
“The ICRC works with the NRCS and other Red Cross societies in the Lake Chad region to locate missing family members, restore contact, and when possible, reunite children with their parents or caretaker. To build a sustainable long-term response, the ICRC is supporting the Nigerian authorities to establish a humanitarian mechanism to clarify the fate and whereabouts of missing persons.
“In addition, it is also supporting a working group of key forensic stakeholders tasked with advocacy and policy reform to improve management of the dead in Nigeria as their proper identification may provide families of the missing persons with information or closure.”
It said between January and June, 2018, over 1,960 fresh tracing requests were opened by persons looking for relatives with the Red Cross.
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“Almost 300 Red Cross messages containing family news were exchanged between separated family members; Over 770 free phone calls were made available by the Red Cross to persons searching for missing family members.”
The ICRC added that almost 490,000 persons in the North-east and North-central regions received food rations, out of which 288,000 persons received improved seeds to enhance their farm yields.
“Over 180,000 persons in the North-east, North-central and the southern regions were assisted with cash or commodity voucher donations to help them cover their multipurpose household needs, including helping them to resume food production and livelihood activities.”
It said it provided over 67,000 persons in the North-central region, including refugees in the southern region with essential household items such as clothes, hygiene products, cooking utensils and mosquito nets; and assisted more than 310,000 displaced, returnees and host communities in the north-east region with improved quality seeds, irrigation machinery, and tools to assist with their farming activities.
According to the ICRC, “More than 1,400 people, including NRCS members, community members, military/police personnel, religious groups and weapon bearers, were trained in first aid and emergency preparedness capacity; and over 4,000 people were provided with mental health and psychosocial support. More than 30 NRCS and community volunteers were trained and supported by the ICRC to provide basic mental health and psychosocial support.”
It added that: “Almost 200 sensitisation sessions were conducted with a total of 1,575 community members and 22 health staff to raise awareness on issues related to mental and psychosocial health as a result of armed conflict and violence. Over 3,070 surgical procedures were performed by two ICRC surgical teams; almost 1,200 people, mainly in the North-east, were able to access medical services due to the rehabilitation and reconstruction of primary health care centres.”