“If I died now, I’d die happy,” said Massa Ouattara, looking at his adult daughter Korotimi, who had been missing for more than ten years. Today they were reunited at the ICRC’s delegation in Ouagadougou. Ten years previously, Korotimi had ended up first in Côte d’Ivoire, where she searched for her children and their father, and then in Niger, where she eventually settled. Over time, her health had deteriorated, making it hard to imagine ever being able to return to Burkina Faso. “I had lost hope of ever seeing any of my family again,” she admitted.
Ten years of silent longing
That changed when she was wounded after being caught in the crossfire of an armed clash. She was treated at a hospital supported by the ICRC, where she learned that the Red Cross had a programme to help people find their families.
The Red Cross Society of Niger, the Burkinabe Red Cross Society and the ICRC teamed up and found her father, brother and other family members in the Cascades region of Burkina Faso.
Massa’s voice faltered as he spoke of his daughter’s long absence: “Sometimes I stayed awake all night and wondered if it wouldn’t be better to just kill myself and end the suffering.” Then he smiled and said, “I dreamed of this moment: seeing my daughter sitting next to me and my grandchildren. Maybe it’s crazy but I often thought that by some miracle she would come back to me.”
Korotimi may have been gone all those years, but for Soumaila, her brother, she was ever-present: “Every conversation, family party, meeting, eventually they all came around to her.” He had found it impossible to grieve without knowing what had become of her. “When there’s a burial, you can move on, despite the pain. When you don’t have answers, you’re trapped in the trauma and worry.”
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