Some 44,000 people in Africa — 45% of them children — are recorded as missing by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), while COVID-19 restrictions create new challenges in finding them, an ICRC report said Wednesday.

“This caseload is a drop in the ocean to the true scale of people whose family members are searching for them,” Sophie Marsac, the ICRC regional advisor for the missing and their families in Africa, was quoted as saying in the report.

“Conflict, violence, migration and climate shocks have not stopped separating families in the pandemic, but our work to find missing people has become even harder,” she added.

Nigeria, Ethiopia, Somalia, Libya, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Cameroon “make up 82% of ICRC’s missing caseload in Africa,” the report said.

Nigeria, meanwhile, with roughly 23,000 recorded missing people, said the report, “is ICRC’s largest caseload of missing people in the continent, driven almost entirely by the conflict in the northeast of the country,” by Boko Haram terrorists.

“Dear son Konyi, if you are still alive and listening to me, your sisters, brothers, aunties, and the whole family are waiting for you. We just want to hear your voice and see you,” the report quoted Juma Kedai Korok, 52, whose son, 31, was abducted four years ago by an armed group in South Sudan, as saying.

As the report was issued ahead of Aug. 30, International Day of the Disappeared, Marsac stressed that the day “should remind us that an untold number of families in Africa are searching for a loved one, many of them parents looking for a child.”

The ICRC called on African authorities “to acknowledge the tragedy of missing people” and “do everything in their power to prevent people from going missing … to search for those who are missing, and to provide information to families on the fate and whereabouts of their loved ones,” said the report.

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