The Search Doesn’t Stop | International Day of the Disappeared 2022

DOTD entry 1 Landscape

Foto: ICRC, Dia Internacional de los desaparecidos 2021: El tiempo no cura, solo las respuestas lo hacen

Latin America is one of the 6 out of 10 countries with the highest number of missing people between the years 1980 and 2020, according to the Report of the Working Group on Missing or Involuntary Disappearances of the United Nations (UN). Thousands of people disappear around the world every year for various reasons, including armed conflicts, violence, natural disasters and migration.

As part of our tribute to all missing people and their families, and in partnership with the International Committee of the Red Cross, we want to raise awareness and create consciousness of this situation by taking a deeper look inside the countries with the highest disappearance rates.

Central America

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Mujer maya Ixil mirando fotos de civiles desaparecidos en una pared en Nebaj, Guatemala.

Fotografía: Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images

In El Salvador, some disappearances were a way of erasing crimes, according to an investigation carried out by the National Commission for the Search for Disappeared Adult Persons in the Context of the Armed Conflict in El Salvador (CONABÚSQUEDA).

According to an investigation provided by the Institutional Coordinator for the Promotion of Children's Rights, another important concern for illegal migration in El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala is human trafficking. It is reported that 8 out of 10 unaccompanied minors detained at the border are victims of this crime.

Want to know more? Watch this documentary on the Central American Caravan for the Disappeared, about a caravan of Honduran, Guatemalan, and Nicaraguan families heading north towards Mexico, looking for lost and disappeared loved ones, seeking to reunite families.

Source: The Real News Network


In Peru as of July 31, 2021, 21,918 people disappeared during the period of violence (1980-2000) were registered in the National Registry of Disappeared Persons and Burial Sites (RENADE). From 2002 to 2022, the bodies of 4,179 people were recovered, 3,010 were identified, and 2,858 were returned to their families, according to figures from the Public Ministry. 39 people were found alive.


DOTD entry 3 Landscape

Familiares de desaparecidos protestan en Ciudad de México, 10 de mayo.

In Mexico, more than 85,000 victims, according to official figures, are attributed to organized crime.

Even with the outgrowing numbers and numerous police reports, the exact causes for disappearances in Mexico are still unknown to the public. Some of the country’s NGOs like the ICRC, the Mexican National Registry of Missing or Disappeared Persons (RNPED), the National Human Rights Commission, among other associations do have access to most of these reports, but one of the explanations for why the causes are so vague and important chunks of information remain unfilled, is the lack of communication and poor data management between the law enforcement and these institutions, in addition to impeding political corruption in the country and the influence of organized crime.

The Mexican State recognized the discovery of around 5,000 clandestine graves since 2017 and the existence of more than 52,000 people who remain unidentified in mass graves and forensic medical services. The ICRC provides information and tools on what to do in the event of a disappearance. Their site has recommendations for relatives of missing persons.

Want to know more? “Cuartos Vacíos” (Empty Rooms) is a website dedicated to the memory of the disappeared children in Mexico.

Disappearances in Mexico - A documentary by The San Diego Union Tribune


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Jesús e Ismael Rodríguez buscan a su hermano Arnulfo, desaparecido en 1996 en Norte de Santander. Créditos: Laura Aguilera Jiménez / ICRC

In the first six months of 2022, the ICRC documented 61 new cases of missing persons, all related to armed conflict and violence. This figure does not account for the total number of cases that could have occurred, since it only corresponds to the events that the organization was directly aware of. This shows that the disappearance is not an event of the past, but a reality associated with the violence that is still present.

Recommended: The true stories of ten families’ journeys to find out what happened to their missing loved ones.

Today we know that there are, not only direct victims (the disappeared), but also indirect victims (their families and relatives), and they are so diverse (trade unionists, students, and population from vulnerable and marginalized sectors) that it is very difficult to establish a specific profile.


ICR photo ven

Together with the National Society of the Venezuelan Red Cross, the ICRC accompanies the families in the search process so that they can receive information about the fate and whereabouts of their loved ones.

The ICR also supports the strengthening of the Venezuelan medical and legal system to guarantee the dignified management of the deceased, the restoration of the identity of unidentified corpses, and the dignified restitution of their remains to their loved ones.

The search for answers: separated, missing and deceased people in international armed conflicts.

A Preventable Tragedy | Reuniting Families | ICRC

The International Humanitarian Law contains a broad set of rules with a purpose to help provide answers about people who are in the hands of the enemy, prevent the separation of family members and the disappearance of people, ensuring that deceased people are treated with dignity and duly identified in the contexts of war. But in order to deliver what they promise, many of these rules must be made effective in law and practice long before a war begins. To achieve an effective implementation of the standards, it is essential to know them and understand the system.

The ICRC Central Tracing Agency: A help engine for those who need answers

For more than 150 years, the CPF, together with Restoring Family Links of the Red Cross, has been the driving force behind efforts to keep families together, reunite them and help them stay together or stay in contact, prevent the disappearance of persons, search for missing persons, protect the dignity of the deceased and ensure that the rights and needs of relatives are respected.

Until recently, this "hidden tragedy," as the ICRC has called it, did not attract sufficient attention from the international community. It was for this reason that the ICRC organized an international conference in 2003 to tackle the problem of missing people and seek ways to help the families and communities affected.

Government, humanitarian and human rights organizations, the Red Cross and Red Crescent, experts and, most importantly, missing family associations all attended the conference, recognizing the vital role of networks that restore family links in which the ICRC, the Red Cross and Red Crescent and many family associations are involved.

The ICRC continued its work after the conference. It participated in the drafting committee that led to the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances adopted by the UN General Assembly in December 2006. The ICRC's president publicly welcomed the preventive framework put in place by the convention and its recognition of the importance of justice.


Get to know the ICRC efforts in order to aid families to reunite with their missing members.

​I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For | Song Around The World | ICRC + Playing For Change

To honor the memory of the people who are lost and the tireless struggle of their families to find them, we created a new Song Around The World, premiering on August 30th during the International #DayOfTheDisappeared.

Donate to the International Committee of the Red Cross here.

People have the right to know what happened to their missing relatives. Governments, the military authorities and armed groups have an obligation to provide information and assist efforts to put families back together.

Hundreds of families reunited
Thousands of people cooperating
A Million more hearts to reach…

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