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Using RapidFTR, young Ayom is reunited with family after war

By Rebecca Vassie

Alek Leek Ayom’s parents heard rumours of an imminent war after reports of unrest from neighbouring villages. Previous experience had taught them that conflict in their area spreads faster than a wildfire. After witnessing several conflicts in their war torn nation, they knew the drill, pack up and leave before it is too late!

But this time they had a reason to hesitate. The hope and belief in their young country South Sudan. It was barely two years old, surely it would not implode so soon.

They decided to stay put and observe the situation, but would send their three children to the hills where they would be safer in case the fighting extended their home in Kol Ma Kwach Sub County. If the rumours of war proved to be just that, Ayom and her siblings would have been home for the new year. But then a few days later, civil war broke.

The 12 year old girl, together with her siblings and the neighbour’ s two children with whom they had been hiding joined the droves of South Sudanese refugees making their way into Uganda. She says they came by bus to Nimule, a boarder of Uganda and South Sudan.

The UNHCR picked up the five unaccompanied minors and along with other refugees, were taken to Dzaipi reception centre, Adjumani District. Here they had to sleep in the open for a week, exposed to the elements and the mosquitoes due to the large number of people at the reception centre. The children were eventually registered and received the standard welcome package, food ration cards and tarpaulins. The five minors were quickly registered with UNICEF’s RapidFTR system, which seeks to speed the reunification of minors with their families after separation during conflict.

The tool works on a mobile phone device which registers, takes photographs and stores the information of the minor, searchable when a parent reports a child is lost and vice versa.

A week later, using RapidFTR, the Uganda Red Cross managed to identify Rebecca Ateng, upon arrival from South Sudan as possible family to Ayom and her siblings. Their details matched and there was positive identification on both sides with the children recognizing Ateng as their paternal aunt. After weeks of being on their own, the minors now moved into settlement with an adult, their aunt Ateng.

Ayom still lives with her auntie at the camp.  “My Auntie reminds me of my father, I can never forget him. If she was not here I would have nothing,” she says. She admits to still worry about what happened back home. There has been no word from her parents since they parted many months ago. She does not know if they are dead or alive. And this uncertainty weighs heavily on the 12 year old.

“I miss them very much” she says evidently upset.

Ayom says she has asked everyone she could, mainly neighbours from their village living in the refugee settlement about the whereabouts of her parents but nobody seems to have an idea.

 “I feel bad because I am safe here, and they may still be there- I wish to be together again. If they have registered with the United Nations- I know now they will find me eventually,” she mentions with a sad look on her face.

 

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