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UNICEF: massive effort to find Sudan's missing

UN children's agency calls for massive effort to find Sudan's missing

Welcoming new research on 10,000 abducted Sudanese children and adults who are still missing, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) today called on the Government of Sudan and international donors to seize the data as an opportunity to make headway in resolving this "massive task."

"This has been an absolutely vital initiative," JoAnna van Gerpen, UNICEF Representative in Sudan, said of the research by the Rift Valley Institute on people abducted by militia groups in Sudan over the past 20 years who are still missing.

"For the first time since 1983 the true extent of the abductions has been documented. It's a huge step in helping us search for the missing children and women. It drives home the fact that they are real people with real names and stories - not just statistics," she added.

The new information would make the ongoing search for those still missing "far more effective, far more meaningful, and far more hopeful," UNICEF said.

The findings are the result of over 18 months of work by the Rift Valley Institute to identify the names and details of individuals who were abducted in southern Sudan over the last 20 years.

The number of children and adults whose families do not know where they are - some 10,380 according to the data released today by the Institute - demonstrates how serious the problem of abduction remains, even though the incidence of abduction has fallen over the past two years, UNICEF said.

The agency said it has become increasingly concerned about lack of progress and wants to see significantly more effective work on abduction by the Sudanese authorities.

"In our view, empowering local governments and genuine community leaders - people who know their area and feel a responsibility toward it - is essential to progress," Ms. van Gerpen said. "Knowledge of the names, clans and villages of nearly every missing child is an extraordinary tool. It should now be possible to search for every individual by name - although it will be a massive task."

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