Few people can imagine the pain of not knowing where a relative is, whether they are safe and well. Hundreds of thousands of people are missing around the world as a result of armed conflict, violence, migration and natural disasters. Some go missing in action. Some are forcibly disappeared. This represents a global humanitarian tragedy on a large scale.

Each year, thousands of people lose contact with their loved ones as they flee conflict or seek safety and a future. Many never return and are never heard from again. And for every missing person, there are countless people missing them.

On the International Day of the Disappeared, 30 August, we remember these people who have disappeared, as well as their family, friends and community. Currently, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has more than 145,000 people registered as disappeared or missing by the ICRC's Central Tracing Agency – a neutral entity mandated by the Geneva Conventions. We know this figure is the tip of the iceberg and does not convey the true extent of this tragedy or do justice to the suffering of each and every family.

“On the International Day of the Disappeared, we want the families of missing persons to know that their loved ones are not forgotten and they are not alone, and to the authorities that ICRC will continue this support and do everything in it's power to provide answers to the families, thereby upholding the families’ right to know,” says Robert Mardini, ICRC Director General.

Photo sharing: a reunification tool

Looking for missing persons and helping their families is as important to our humanitarian mission as providing food, shelter or first aid. Families have the right to know what happened and the whereabout of their missing relatives. For families of missing persons, time does not heal, answers do.

As part of our Restoring Family Links service, New Zealand Red Cross is integrating with Trace the Face – a photo gallery of people looking for their lost relatives. The Trace the Face website allows people to publish their own photo to advertise their search for a relative gone missing on their migratory journey.

Poe Say lost contact with her two sons for more than 20 years when she was forced to flee her home country Myanmar.

Trace the Face was created in 2013 by several European National Red Cross Societies and ICRC to answer a challenge specific to migration: help people locate missing relatives who could be anywhere on the migratory road to Europe. This search has now spread across other continents.

Trace the Face is a confidential and secure service using the global Red Cross Red Crescent Movement to reconnect families. Since 2013, the online tool reconnected 206 families and, since the beginning of 2020, has found approximately one match a week.

Are you looking for a family member?

If you are looking for a missing family member and wish to use the Trace the Face platform to search for your loved one, you can send a tracing request to New Zealand Red Cross’ Restoring Family Links team. The team will assess your enquiry and discuss with the enquirer what support may be available. 

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