After 6 days of not knowing where my son was, I thought he was dead.

After 6 days of not knowing where my son was, I thought he was dead.

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Charles is hugged by his mother on the day of reunification

“After 6 days of not knowing where my son was, I thought he was dead.” A tale of a mother who has been reunited with her son after deadly floods displaced thousands in Bundibugyo.

During emergencies such as war, a disaster or any form of destruction, people become internally displaced or end up as refugees in foreign countries. Under such circumstances, families become detached. Family separation not only affects people physically but emotionally too. It is worse for differently abled people because in most cases they need help as they may not be able to move from one place to another.Children are another special category of people who are at risk or suffer worse effects of family separation because most times their safety is compromised. In armed conflict, they can end up being recruited into armed forces, they can be abducted, trafficked or even sexually abused. In some cases, they are put under foster care, and suffer injustices such as exploitation.

Uganda Red Cross with support from the International Committee of the Red Cross works to ensure that families separated by any of the above circumstances are supported. This is done through the Restoration of Family Links program (RFL) or what some people locally call “family tracing.”

Whenever an emergency hits, the RFL services are activated to register the affected, activate family tracing processes and systems, as well as support the actual family unification process until people are re-united with their loved ones.

In early December 2019, heavy rains hit Bundibugyo district in western Uganda. The rain lasted for 6 hours. It was too strong and moved boulders from the hills of Rwenzori mountain across 12 sub-counties in Bundibugyo district.

Tears and wailing filled the town. 18 people lost their lives and thousands were displaced. It was hard for people who were in town running their businesses to go back home, and neither could those in villages cross to town. Roads were destroyed, houses and bridges, gardens washed away, small streams became rivers and big rivers burst their banks, flowing into people’s homes and caused massive destruction.

L-R Night Mary (mother),Charles Mubindu (son) and Uganda Red Cross RFL
Staff on the day of family reunification

Those who survived were seen scampering off to buildings nearby, looking for a safe place to hide and save their lives. Among those was Night Mary, a 40-year-old mother of 2. On that dreadful day, she was in Bundibugyo town operating her stall. She sells fresh vegetables for a living. The rain caught her up and couldn’t return home to find her family. She later got information that her house was no more and rain had destroyed everything.

“When I got the information, I shrunk; my feeble legs couldn’t hold me anymore; I sat down. What crossed my mind first were my children. I thought they had died. I cried, I got tired and slept. After sometime someone woke me up, it was dark and had nowhere to sleep. That day we got blankets from Red Cross officials and tarpaulins to sleep on the floor at a school nearby town. The dark seemed darker for me.” Said Night Mary.

After three days, the government of Uganda gazzeted Bubukwanga Camp and Semuliki High School to officially host the internally displaced people in Bundibugyo. Among the services Uganda Red Cross offers include distribution of food, non-food items, psychosocial support, clean and safe water, family tracing and protection services, among other life saving support.

“When Red Cross said they offer family tracing, I registered the names of my son Charles, 14 years old. I had known that my daughter lives with my sister but my son was still missing. I however didn’t see his name among those recorded dead. I approached the Red Cross desk and registered for tracing services. Today, I smile and cry because I met my child. I want to thank Red Cross so much for helping to look for my son. He was at Bubukwanga camp.” Night Mary is excited.

Through the RFL services, Night Mary was able to re-unite with her son. They were living in different camps after the disaster. They both wandered to different directions after the incident. Night Mary thought her son was dead and Charles too thought his mother was dead because the town council (where his mother works from) was among the worst hit areas.

Charles didn’t bother looking for his mother, he thought she had died. “we were told that people in down all died. I had lost hope. I am happy I met mom. Thank you Red Cross.” Charles shed tears of joy.

“ICRC immediately worked with the National Society to deploy RFL teams from other parts of the country to support Bundibugyo. I am here to offer technical support. Bundibugyo was not among the districts that host refugees so we didn’t have RFL staff at this branch. With the support of ICRC, we have managed to deploy RFL staff and this is how Night Mary and others benefited from family tracing services.” Says Abel Nuwamanya, Uganda Red Cross RFL Program Manager.

Uganda Red Cross through the axillary role supports the government of Uganda to take lead in offering humanitarian lifeline services to the people affected and displaced by disasters in Bundibugyo and other districts where Climate Change has greatly impacted on communities.

The National Society remains committed to offering lifesaving services to different communities across the Country. Today, Government of Uganda statistics show that over 6 million people are affected by disasters across the country.

URCS Contacts

Plot 551/555 Rubaga Road.
P.O. Box 494, Kampala Uganda.
Tel:     (256) 414 258701
Tel:     (256) 414 258702


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