The Blog

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

David and Christopher Mikkelsen Headshot

Helping 100,000 Refugees Find Missing Family

Posted: Updated:
Print Article

One hundred thousand. One hundred thousand lives touched. One hundred thousand refugees separated from family members during their escape from conflict.

On 23 April, Refugees United passed a significant milestone in its short history: The one hundredth thousand refugee in search of missing family registered onto our family tracing platform. Growing from a point of life where, just a few years ago, the size of the problem of refugees being separated from family was almost unknown to other refugee agencies, Refugees United and partners have shone not only an enlightening light, but brought forth a sweeping beam of technology to help solve this problem of family separation.

Where family tracing for refugees was carried out before via pen and paper, and through individual efforts, now, through the Refugees United platform and mobile technologies, built with Ericsson, we're seeing an unprecedented level of collaboration between not only refugee agencies, but with refugees themselves.

Deployed across refugee camps and urban areas in Kenya, Uganda, Somalia and elsewhere in East Africa, the Refugees United mobile tracing system is now, in the hands of the Red Cross, the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), Refugee Consortium of Kenya and others, helping more than 500 refugees sign up to try to reconnect with missing family every day. Before the birth of this system, an individual refugee agency had the capacity to help approximately 700 to 800 refugees sign up to search for missing loved ones a year.

Utilising simple mobile technologies, accessible to aid workers as well as refugees in the camps, the platform has seen tremendous growth, especially over the past three months. As we have refined and reshaped our technology and outreach, our partners have soared to new heights in their approach, helping more than 25,000 refugees in the past two months alone! The Refugees United system was built on the concept that only through collaboration can anything be achieved; this 100th thousand milestone and the current rise of efficiency bears testament to this ideology.

We have had, and continue to have, our fair share of failures and mistaken ventures. When you push technology and digital platforms to a refugee population of some 43 million, many of whom have never engaged with such technology before, you're bound to chase down dead end streets. That being said, only in these forays off the charted map will you understand what not to do - a wildly underestimated exercise in the world of aid.

At the end of the day, the reason for our work is to help families find each other again through the chaos of being a refugee. When we succeed, as we do more and more often, every reconnection between two family members, often reconnecting six, seven or eight people, pumps through the arteries of Refugees United and our partners the very life blood of why we do what we do. Every story is heartbreaking, every story a journey unto itself. Please, take a moment and read about this recent reconnection between to Congolese brothers, separated after more than 10 years of separation to truly understand the need for what we do.

We'd like to end this blog post by thanking our many partners, to whom much of this success can be attributed: Omidyar Network, IKEA Foundation, Ericsson, Kenya Red Cross, UNHCR, RCK, Intersos, SAP, Delta Partners, MTN, Maersk Foundation, Danfoss Foundation and many, many others. Here's to you!

Around the Web

Refugees United

Refugees United - connecting families | Refugees United

Refugees United on Vimeo

Lost & found: How Refugees United aims to be a Google for refugee ...

Refugees United Org. - Non-Profit Organization | Facebook