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Walsall woman thanks Red Cross after they traced her missing mother

29 August 2012

Mum-of-two Amuun Mohamoud has said thank you to the British Red Cross after the charity traced her missing mother and put the pair back in touch.

Amuun approached the Red Cross asking for help finding her mum, Zara, who she had last seen in a refugee camp near Mombassa, Kenya, eight years ago. 

Working alongside the Kenyan Red Cross, the charity’s international tracing and message service (ITMS) eventually tracked Zara down and mother and daughter are now back in touch.

Amuun, 41, from Walsall, said: “After we lost touch with her I truly thought she was dead. The Red Cross did the most amazing thing and found her. Words cannot describe how it felt to know she was still alive.”

The thank you comes as the Red Cross marks this year’s International Day of the Disappeared on Thursday 30 August by remembering people who have gone missing throughout the world in armed conflict and other situations of violence. 

Amuun’s tragic story began when she was 21-years-old and the bloody civil war in Somalia forced her to flee to neighbouring Kenya with her mum Zara, dad Hussein and brother Ohamoud.

They lived in a refugee camp close to Mombassa, Kenya, for nine years before eventually making enough money from the sale of jewellery and other family heirlooms to buy two tickets to Britain. Her parents made the heartbreaking decision to split the family. Amuun was to travel with her father, leaving behind her three-year-old son Zakary, mother and brother.

Although Zakary, now 14, joined her several years later, Amuun was desperate to see her mother again. Sadly the pair lost touch in 2004 when Zara returned to Somalia, leaving no forwarding number. 

Believing her mother was dead Amuun forged a life for herself in the UK, learning English, moving to Walsall and having another child, Amina, now three. 

But in 2007 a friend reported seeing Zara at a wedding in Somalia. It made Amuun think perhaps there was hope of one day seeing her mum again, but she did not know who to turn to for help.

In 2011, on advice from a friend, Amuun approached the Red Cross ITMS team in Birmingham who took on her case immediately. Eight months later they were able to give Amuun the news she had only allowed herself to dream of – her mother had been found, alive and well living with a friend in Mombassa.

“I rushed straight home and bought a phone card so I could call my mum,” said Amuun. 

“She couldn’t believe it was me on the phone. She had thought I was dead and I thought she was dead, we were both crying so much. We had so much to catch up on – she didn’t even know she had another grandchild.”

Zara, 59, and Amuun are now in regular contact, speaking every week on the phone and sending each other pictures.

Monica Ribeiro, Red Cross ITMS coordinator who took up Amuun’s case, said: “When families are separated by conflict, natural disaster or migration, the Red Cross works through a global network to put them back in touch through our free international tracing and message services.

“We were thrilled we could help Amuun and her family. We worked closely with our colleagues in London and Kenya to try to find her mother and it’s a fantastic feeling when we get a positive result.”

The International Day of the Disappeared on 30 August is a United Nations-recognised annual commemoration day for individuals who have gone missing in armed conflicts or other situations of violence. The day presents a stark reminder that thousands of families across the world are still unaware of the fate of loved ones missing through conflict. 

In Birmingham a number of activities have been organised to mark the day, including a special exhibition at Birmingham’s Central Library. At Birmingham Cathedral there will be a special service on the day and two pews will be left empty to symbolise those who are missing. A memory book will also be available in the Cathedral for messages or memories of loved ones.

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