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Commemorative Activities to Remember the Missing

Disappearances are a reality. Whether they happen during conflict, due to migration, or because of natural or man-made disasters, the families of the disappeared all feel the anguish of uncertainty.
The ICRC has open files on individuals who have disappeared in over 70 countries and territories. Behind each "open tracing case" is a family coping with the pain of ambiguous loss and who is desperate to know what has happened. The "right to know" is enshrined in International Humanitarian Law (IHL) and the ICRC and National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies do all they can to alleviate the impact and end the haunting silence that disappearance leaves behind.
The following stories commemorate the International Day of the Disappeared 2015. Browse through them to learn more about how disappearance impacts families, and understand how the ICRC and National Societies offer their support. Sharing these stories helps the ICRC give a voice to the disappeared and their families.
ICRC feature film for the International Day of the Disappeared 2015:
"A Life on Hold - Addressing the needs of families of the missing"
Experiences of families of the missing from Uganda, Mexico and Georgia.



Senegal: A community's commemoration of its missing youth
Members of the Gandiole community in Senegal gathered to commemorate the 40 young people who went missing after leaving the village almost a decade earlier.

Uganda: Remembering the missing in Kitgum
Over 800 people took part in an ICRC commemorative event held in Kitgum. It was the first major event of its kind to remember those who went missing in Northern Uganda between 1986 and 2006.

Uganda: Helping families of the missing to find renewed purpose and meaning
In Northern Uganda, the ICRC works to help the families of those who disappeared cope with their pain and move forward.

Central African Republic: Over a thousand people still searching for loved ones
One of the tragic consequences of the armed conflict in the west of the Central African Republic is that families have become separated and dispersed as they fled.

South Sudan: South Sudan's 'Facebook' for missing people
This page regroups ICRC and BBC coverage of our new 'snapshot' initiative to reunite families caught up in the violence in South Sudan.

South Sudan: “Snapshot book” helps children find loved ones
The use of a "snapshot book" by the ICRC and several Red Cross Societies of the region is helping adults and children find missing relatives in South Sudan and abroad.

Niger/Nigeria: The immeasurable joy of finding relatives believed missing
In Niger, the ICRC and the Red Cross of Niger are endeavoring to help people who have fled the violence and the fighting in Nigeria to regain contact with their loved ones.

Brazil: Remembering Loved Ones
Many Brazilian families still deal with the anguish of not knowing what became of their loved ones; holding on to only the memories.

Mexico: Soledad's story - in search of her missing brother
Soledad's brother left the family village to seek work in the United States. On his way he was kidnapped and never heard of since.

Colombia: A wall for the missing
In Buenaventura, Colombia, the community remembers the missing with a large beautiful mural painting.

Peru: Searching for the missing decades after war
Thirty years after Peru's bloody civil war, relatives of the dead and disappeared search for truth and closure.

Mexico and Central America : The missing and their families
"I am 82 and I don't want to die without knowing what happened to my family."

Chile: ICRC stores DNA in search for missing persons
Alicia and Lorena are looking for answers. As they search for truth and justice, they've given blood samples to help trace their missing relatives.

Peru: The Scarf of Hope for families of the missing
The one-kilometre-long Scarf of Hope keeps the memory alive of the thousands of people that disappeared in Peru between 1980 and 2000.


New Zealand: Remembering the missing on the IDoD
"Missing Lives", a photography exhibition in Wellington, highlights the ongoing anguish of families torn apart by war.

Breaking the Silence: Bougainville’s Missing Persons
A video by a British/Irish and a British/French film maker provides a glimpse into the lives of people who have lost loved ones as a result of the Bougainville Conflict.

Bougainville, Papua New Guinea: Remembering the missing 20 years on
The ICRC, together with the Papua New Guinea Red Cross Society in Bougainville, helps families of missing persons to raise awareness of their plight and organize remembrance ceremonies.

Papua New Guinea: Families of missing persons must have answers

The 1989-1997 civil war in Bougainville, Papua New Guinea left as many as 20,000 dead. The fate and whereabouts of many more remain unknown.

Sri Lanka: The tale of a team
A team of eight young field officers hope to eventually give answers to the families of missing persons in Sri Lanka.

Nepal: Families of missing persons still searching for loved ones
In Nepal, families whose loved ones went missing between 1996 and 2006 cling to shreds of hope. By supporting one another, they are able to better cope with their loss.

Sri Lanka: 25 years of restoring family links
In Sri Lanka, the ICRC works to get relatives back in touch when conflict and disaster separate them and explores ways to help the families of missing persons.

Nepal: Wives of disappeared give mutual support - Nepali Times
Sobha Rani Tharu calls her husband's name so softly it is nearly lost in the hot, dry wind.


Kyrgyzstan: Families remember their missing relatives in Osh
On 27 October 2015, representatives of 21 families gathered at the monument for missing persons in Osh to remember relatives they hadn't seen since the communal violence in 2010.

Armenia: Coping with a son’s disappearance
For years after her son disappeared, Mariam wasn't able to leave her house. An ICRC-sponsored peer support group has helped her share her pain and feel relief.

Kosovo: Families of the missing commemorate their loved ones
In Pristina, family members of the missing, young and old, came together holding images of their missing loved ones and called for increased commitment from the international community and national authorities to clarify their whereabouts.

Azerbaijan: A Garden of Memories
For Nanagiz, the pain of her husband’s disappearance has been hard to bear. Sharing her experience with other families of missing persons allows her to regain her strength.

Georgia: Help for families of missing persons
Lile's brother went missing over 20 years ago. Despite her own suffering, Lile supports her mother and daughter single-handedly.

Kamo's mother single-handedly took care of the family when her husband disappeared. Since she died, Kamo has worked hard like she did to create a sustainable livelihood.

Azerbaijan: "I felt as though my husband had come back"
After years of torment following her husband's disappearance, Shovkat found solidarity when she attended an ICRC support programme for families of missing persons.

Azerbaijan: Cherishing the memory of a missing loved one
My brother, Pashayev Pasha, went missing on 24 April 1994. I was only 12 at the time but I still remember vividly how my family started the long and painful search for him.

Trace the Face: Helping refugees and migrants find missing relatives
How the ICRC and Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies help refugees and migrants in Europe find missing family members.

Armenia: Trees as living memories
Families of missing persons often have no place to mourn them. In the central park of Armavir they gathered to plant ash trees in memory of their loved ones.

Bosnia & Herzegovina: Remembering Srebrenica, 20 years on
The Bosnia conflict ended in 1995, but many of those who disappeared are still missing. Two decades later, their families still bear the intolerable burden of not knowing their fate.

Middle East

Lebanon: families still seek answers
Since the end of the civil war, the ICRC has been encouraging the Lebanese authorities to clarify the fate of missing persons.

Lebanon: 25 years on, still missing but not forgotten
The war in Lebanon ended 25 years ago but the fate of thousands of missing people remains unknown.

Syria: Pain and anguish when a husband goes missing
Zahr-el-Ban's husband disappeared three and half years ago. Despite the resulting pain and anguish, she lives in hope that one day he will come back alive.

Iran: Loss, resilience and hope, paintings by Donya Hafezi Haghani
A stunning visual of the impact of loss on migrant women and children and how they remain hopeful and keep their strength.

Thousands are missing and thousands are missing them. The ICRC collects detailed information that may help clarify the fate of missing persons in Lebanon.

Lebanon: ICRC brings families of the missing together for the first time
As a milestone of its new support program, the ICRC brings the families of the missing together, paving the way for a network of solidarity.

Iran/Iraq: Soldiers' remains returned to families
Human remains of soldiers killed during the Iran-Iraq war are brought home with the help of the ICRC.

Lebanon: Fatma's story
She longs to return to Syria and to see her family reunited.



Learn more about the impact of disappearances and how we help families of the missing, click here.

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