Two weeks after Mount Nyiragongo’s eruption in the Democratic Republic of Congo, hundreds of children have gone missing from Goma and the region around the city.
Family members have been torn apart amid the chaotic frenzy of tens of thousands of residents fleeing the city and its surrounding areas from the consequential devastation
Parents and caretakers — desperate to find their children, look in hospitals, shelters and temporary centres managed by the International Committee of Red Cross (ICRC) in the country.
This — in addition to other sites established by various non-governmental organisations, is where unaccompanied children are cared for until they are able to be reunited with their families.
Noelle Kavira, the 38-year-old mother of a missing eight-year-old girl is hoping to find her beloved child.
“I am here at the Red Cross to look for my child who has been separated from me since Sake. I don’t know when she left, she was with her brothers. Now I am suffering while looking for her, I don’t know what to do.”
The exact number of missing children is unknown but some local aid workers fear that estimates could be much higher as many cases have not yet been registered.
Julia Haremska, a delegate at International Committee of the Red Cross in the Democratic Republic of Congo outlines the current state of affairs.
” It’s about 1,300 children who were looked for by their parents. So, it’s the parents who have come to tell us that they are looking for children too.
The ICRC has already received around 180 unaccompanied children who got separated from their families amid the evacuation ordered by the local authorities to avoid a possible second volcanic eruption
Other groups — along with the ICRC, have been also working in the neighbouring areas where people fled when the eruption took place.
Some families have already received great news by way of this humanitarian work.
Kahambu Rupande, the mother of Agape who was missing for two weeks is beyond overjoyed.
“I have just found her today because since last week we were suffering while looking for her. It was yesterday that a neighbour saw her in Turunga (a neighbourhood in Goma). He then came and told me in the morning that he saw my daughter. Then, we came to the Red Cross and we found her here, that’s why I have so much joy!”
The organisation in addition to family reunification, also provide shelter and psychological support to the children as they await to be hopefully be reunited with their families — as many of them are experiencing extreme stress and separation anxiety.