TOPICS : Where have the missing gone?

The armed conflict has come to a halt but in humanitarian arena, challenges still abound. One of them is the human tragedy of the missing. It is a tragedy for the person who disappears, but the other victims are the families suspended in limbo, suspecting their loved ones are dead, yet unable to mourn or move on and in the absence of proof tormented by countless unwelcome possibility — a secret prison, a new life in a foreign land. The pain is not just emotional; often it can be financially crippling.

Ram Janaki Tharu of Rajapur, Bardiya, is one of the hundreds of Nepali parents whose sons have gone missing. No matter how difficult it is to mourn the loss of a loved one, it is even more distressing not to be able to mourn at all, she sobs. She adds that she clearly remembers the night when her son was taken away. Since then, she has knocked on the doors of many authorities and has spent her entire life savings on a fruitless search.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is carrying out a range of humanitarian activities to resolve the problem of people unaccounted for as a result of armed conflict by adapting its response to address the long-term and multi-faceted consequences of this human tragedy. The ICRC has redoubled its efforts to tackle the concern on a global scale.

It endeavours to promote the right to know on behalf of the families and reminds the states of their obligation to take necessary measures to clarify the fate of missing persons and inform the family thereof. Together with the National Red Cross Red Crescent Societies (Nepal Red Cross Society in Nepal), it accepts tracing requests from families who have had no news of their relatives who went unaccounted for during the armed conflicts and requires authorities to bring answers and support to these families.

More should be done to address this pressing humanitarian issue and help families clarify the fate of their loved ones. International organisations play an important role in the process, but they all agree that national authorities must ultimately lead the way to reconciliation. The absence of the political will among those directly concerned and lack of cooperation on the part of those who might persuade them to act often make the prevention and clarification

of disappearances related to armed conflict or internal violence an arduous task.

This day, the World Red Cross Day, highlights the need to work together for humanity to strengthen the local and government partnerships in facing complex humanitarian challenges that include worldwide efforts to resolve the problem of people unaccounted for as a

result of armed conflict or internal violence so as to reconnect families separated by such emergencies. Only when the issue of missing persons is given due priority and addressed, will the wounds of the society start to heal and can we start the development of a beautiful new Nepal.

Chemjong is with ICRC