Somali Man Tells How Red Cross Found His Family
Wednesday, December 05, 2012
A Somali refugee has thanked Peter Maurer for the ICRC's role in tracking down his family in conflict-afflicted Yemen. Muxammad Diiriye is a typical story of the practical cooperation between the British Red Cross and the ICRC that reunites hundreds of families separated by war and violence.
Mr Diiriye explained to ICRC president Peter Maurer how he had approached the Red Cross in Britain in August 2011. He wanted to find his daughter, mother-in-law and 10 other members of his family who had fled the violence of Somalia for Yemen and then disappeared. For more than a year he had no contact with them.
An ICRC team based in Sana'a, the capital of Yemen, found Mr Diiriye's family while on a field trip in November 2011. ICRC delegates delivered a Red Cross message from Mr Diiriye and the family wrote a reply. Mr Diiriye and his family were then able to get back in contact via phone.
"It was the happiest day of my life," Mr Diiriye told Mr Maurer, who was on his first official visit to London. "I am so grateful," he said, adding that it had been particularly hard to find his family, who were in a remote area of Yemen "To find my family in such chaotic conditions, that made me so thankful to the Red Cross."
Mr Diiriye is himself lucky to have escaped from Somalia alive. In 1996 he was almost killed in a roadside ambush. An arduous journey overland through Africa ensued, followed by a flight to London. Once in London, Mr Diiriye was astonished to discover that his chest still contained a bullet, which British surgeons were able to remove.
Every year, the British Red Cross International Tracing and Message Service receives more than a thousand requests to find family members lost overseas. In 2011 it traced 332 people through the combined network of the ICRC and National Societies in the Red Cross and Red Crescent movement.