As the crisis persists in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), in partnership with the Red Cross Society of the DRC, has since 19 November registered more than 300 unaccompanied children. They became separated from their families during the fighting that has rocked the area since mid-November. Very young children have been found next to their parents' lifeless bodies or wandering alone by the side of the road. To date, around 150 children have been reunited with their families. Efforts are under way to reunite others with their loved ones before the holiday season.
Ishara (11), Akili (9), Espoire (7) and Ushindi (2) were playing with a friend near their home in Goma when the sound of fighting suddenly intensified. Their mother had gone to find food. As the fighting spread through the neighbourhood, the four brothers fled. They headed for Mugunga, several kilometres to the west of Goma, where they hoped to find their neighbour's uncle - to no avail. The four boys then took the road to Sake, 20 kilometres further west, where a woman agreed to let them spend the night.
After a sleepless night punctuated by the sounds of gunfire and explosions, the children decided to return to Goma in search of food. En route, a patrol of soldiers picked them up in their truck and took them in the opposite direction, away from the fighting. They ended up in the town of Minova, more than 50 kilometres from Goma.
They were taken in by a well-meaning local resident, who brought their case to the attention of the National Red Cross, which contacted ICRC staff. The ICRC dispatched a vehicle to Minova to bring the children to its office in Bukavu. There they were housed in a transit centre where children separated from their families are looked after while the ICRC attempts to trace their parents.
On 17 December, three weeks after fleeing their neighbourhood, Ishara, Akili, Espoire and Ushindi took a boat from Bukavu to Goma, where they were reunited with their mother Nadine Kanyere.
After her children went missing, Nadine had exhausted her meagre savings* travelling to Sake and surrounding areas to search for her sons. In vain. A neighbour advised her to go to the Goma branch of the National Red Cross, where she recognized her children among the photos displayed to help families find their missing loved ones. Her joy at finding her children after three weeks was indescribable. "But without money and with my husband away, it won't be easy to feed my children and pay for their schooling," said Nadine. The four brothers will have to wait for their mother to get her small business selling volcanic rock up and running again before they can return to school.
* Nadine's modest income comes from collecting and selling volcanic rock, which is used as a building material.
Shooting location: Bukavu and Goma (Democratic Republic of the Congo)
Running time: 2'59
Format: Mpeg2 / 16:9 anamorphic / SD
Production: Didier Revol / Thomas Glass
Camera operator: Alain Pentucci
ICRC reference: AV051N Congo RFL
Shooting date: 18 December 2012
Copyright ICRC: Access all