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UNICEF to deploy innovative RapidFTR system to reunite Congolese families in Uganda

By Charles-Martin Jjuuko

KAMPALA, Tuesday, 16 July 2013 - The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is preparing to deploy its innovative Rapid Family Tracing and Reunification (RapidFTR) tool to facilitate the quick identification of children separated from their families, or those unaccompanied by adults in the latest influx of Congolese refugees into western Uganda. 

The Uganda Red Cross Society in Bubandi Sub County, Bundibugyo District, reports that it registered over 66,000 refugees in space of three days after fighting by suspected Allied Democratic Forces rebels erupted inside the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), on 11 July. New arrivals initially stayed at five primary schools and various other sites, until a transit camp was prepared at the Bubukwanga Sub County headquarters, some 28 kilometres from Uganda’s border with the DRC border and 8 kilometres from the Ugandan town of Bundibugyo. 

Ensuring the safety of separated and unaccompanied children crossing into western Uganda to escape the fighting is a key concern, and a number of unaccompanied minors have already been identified.

“RapidFTR is designed to help us quickly establish a child’s identity and that of their family, after which tracing and reuniting them becomes much easier,” said Dr. Sharad Sapra, UNICEF Representative in Uganda. “We are working very closely with UNHCR, ICRC, Uganda Red Cross Society and Save the Children to facilitate this process among the refugees from DRC.”

RapidFTR is a versatile, open-source mobile phone application and data storage system that helps humanitarian workers to swiftly collect, sort and share information about unaccompanied and separated children in emergency situations. This process used to be paper based, but with RapidFTR, children are digitally registered for care services. Their photographs and key details are immediately accessible among humanitarian workers via their mobile phones and using the shared data storage system. This helps to more quickly trace and reunite children with their families.

UNICEF and other humanitarian partners have responded to the emergency under overall co-ordination of the Ugandan Office of the Prime Minister. The UN child rights agency has provided a range of supplies in the areas of health, education, water, sanitation and hygiene. These include over 160 kilogrammes of chlorine to purify water for 50,000 people, three 10,000-litre water tanks, regular transporting of water to meet the needs of the displaced and a cholera kit for use in the event of an outbreak. To ensure that children can continue learning, 60 “School-in-a-Box” kits have been provided, which can support 2,400 children. Tents to create temporary child-friendly spaces and 40 recreational kits have been provided to cover the needs of up to 800 children.

Before the recent influx of refugees in Bundibugyo, Uganda was already host to more than 210,000 registered refugees and asylum seekers, 63 percent of whom originate from the DRC. RapidFTR has been successfully used to support emergency activities among other refugee populations in Uganda.

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UNICEF works in more than 190 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.  For more information about UNICEF and its work visit:



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