Geneva. - Governments and civil society must do more to document the fate and whereabouts of people who disappear in conflicts or other circumstances and give stronger support to the families left behind, the International Committee of the Red Cross has said. "Whether someone has disappeared during war, or migration or a disaster, the suffering of the families remains," said Marianne Pecassou, who heads the ICRC’s team working on the missing.
"It’s essential to collect information that is available today on people who disappear, how and where they have disappeared, that might be useful at some point in time to bring answers to the families," said Pecassou, speaking as the world prepares to mark the International Day of the Disappeared on August 30.
But providing answers takes a long time and is often not possible while a conflict is still ongoing. For some families, there might never be a definitive answer. And in the meantime, families have a range of needs for support.
"All too often, especially in conflict situations, the problem of the missing is just not on the radar. Governments and other actors need to make sure it is on the agenda and do more to address the practical and emotional needs of the families," Pecassou said.
"The disappearance of a loved one may leave the family without economic support and often they will have to use up their dwindling resources on the search for their missing relative. In many cases, the family does not want to declare a missing person dead and so for example, they can’t access the person’s property or salary,” said Pecassou.
Families also suffer on an emotional and social level - they might experience isolation, sadness and marginalisation and often need longterm support in order to overcome these difficulties and regain control of their lives.
The ICRC offers support of various kinds, ranging from economic security programmes to help families find new livelihoods, to legal and administrative advice to emotional care and help with trying to find out the facts and ways of remembering their missing loved ones.