November 19, 1996 in Nation/World

Children Lost Along Road Kids Placed In Camps While Agencies Try To Find Parents

Associated Press

The exhausted young mother, barefoot, stepped inside the tent and began scrutinizing the faces of hundreds of children playing on the dirty floor and eating cookies.

Suddenly, she reached into the crowd and grabbed out her 8-yearold daughter by the arm.

Escorting the child out of the tent, Marceline Myiramzbrimba broke into a smile of relief. “I was holding her hand yesterday, and then suddenly she disappeared. I am so happy she is with me.”

Myiramzbrimba is among 200 lucky parents who found their sons and daughters at a temporary camp on the Rwandan border. There are still hundreds of lost children here, separated from their parents during the confusion of a half-million Hutu refugees streaming back to their Rwandan homeland in the past four days.

Aid agencies say up to 700,000 refugees remain in the eastern Zairian mountains near Lake Kivu, and their situation is not clear.

Some of those are children.

“The number of new separations is still higher than unifications,” said Marie de la Soudiere of the U.N. children’s organization, UNICEF. “We hope to unite them all soon.”

As the column of tired refugees snaked along the road, Rwandan aid workers shouted through megaphones for parents to hang on to their children and told them where to look if their youngsters were lost. Worried parents waited at the gates of the interim border camp; aid workers let them in gradually. Lost children were put into the huge tents there, divided by hometown.

Children wore coded bracelets to help parents find them. Those younger than 5 were photographed, their snapshots posted at the camp and distributed to Red Cross offices throughout Rwanda.

If a child’s parents or relatives cannot be found, aid agencies will try to find foster parents.

© Copyright 1996 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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