August 30, 2017
MANILA – It has been more than three months since fighting broke out in Marawi City, in Lanao del Sur province, but for families whose loved ones are still missing, the wait seems never-ending. In an effort to reunite these families, the Philippine Red Cross (PRC) and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) recently launched an online page (https://familylinks.icrc.org/Philippines) that helps trace missing persons. On the occasion of the International Day of the Disappeared (30 August), the ICRC wishes to draws attention to the plight of these families and stresses that people have a right to know what happened to their missing relatives.
Camilla Matteucci, head of the ICRC team working with the PRC to reunite families in the Philippines, said there are many possible causes of separation during a conflict situation. “People could be trapped by the fighting, detained or even killed. They could be in an evacuation centre but not have the means to contact their kin. At the end of the day, it’s important to remember that families have a right to know what has happened to their loved ones, and wherever possible, be reunited with them. Our tracing website offers a platform for people to share information about their missing relatives and request our help in tracing them.”
The website supplements existing tracing services such as the 12 PRC welfare desks in evacuation centres in Marawi and Iligan cities. The information shared by families with the Red Cross remains confidential. Since the beginning of the Marawi conflict, the Red Cross has received 402 tracing requests, 179 of which are still being looked into.
Aisha (not her real name), whose husband went missing in Marawi, said: “With each day that the fighting continues, our hope diminishes. We praise Allah if my husband is still alive. But if he is dead, then we need to recover his remains so that we can bury him according to our religion and traditions. Every Maranao family looking for a loved one wishes for this.”
Reuniting families in times of conflict or disaster is a key service that is always provided by the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. In Marawi, the ICRC and the PRC have been providing technical and material support to help the authorities manage dead bodies. Besides this, the PRC has provided psychosocial support to more than 10,400 people, including children, affected by the conflict.
The ICRC is a neutral, impartial and independent humanitarian organization whose exclusively humanitarian mission is to protect the lives and dignity of victims of armed conflict and other situations of violence and to provide them with assistance. The ICRC also endeavours to prevent suffering by promoting and strengthening humanitarian law and universal humanitarian principles.