War and disaster separate thousands of children from their families every year. Here’s how we get them home.

Imagine the fear of being separated from your child in the chaos of an earthquake or bombing. Imagine the despair of not seeing them for months or years, just hoping they’re alive and safe.

Now imagine the moment you find them again.

That’s a moment UNICEF helped make happen 21,000 times last year. We’re on the ground in 190 countries, so when disaster strikes or violence breaks out we can find unaccompanied children and keep them safe. With local partners, innovative mobile networks and painstaking research, we trace their families and bring them back together again.

A place to call home for orphans in Aleppo

Beneath these big smiles is a story few of us could imagine.

Zakariya and Doha lost their parents to violence in Aleppo, Syria, and survived with their siblings for two months in a destroyed building. They rummaged through the rubble for scrap metal to sell, burned wood to stay warm and all crowded into one room to sleep.
Zakariya and Doha were both quiet when they first arrived at the shelter, but within weeks they were laughing and playing with the other children. © UNICEF/UN056229/Al-Issa

That’s where UNICEF found them, scared and covered in ashes. After two hellish months, they had one request: to stay together.

UNICEF doesn’t run orphanages - we do everything we can to keep children safe in their communities. Every day, while the children went to school and recovered in safety, our staff urgently searched for their parents and extended family.

After four months of searching, there was great news for Mohammad and his siblings: UNICEF found their uncle. It’s no small feat to trace someone in the middle of biggest humanitarian crisis since World War II, but it’s worth it to give the children a chance to recover with their family.

5,000 emotional family reunions in South Sudan

Over three million people from South Sudan have fled their homes since conflict broke out in 2013. Families have dodged bullets, run for hours and hidden in dense wetlands for safety. Thousands of children have been separated from their families in the chaos but UNICEF is helping to bring them home. By late 2017, we’d reunited 5,000 children in South Sudan with their families.
An emotional reunion: 15-year-old Angelina hasn’t seen her mother in two years. © UNICEF/UN026654/Everett

15-year-old Angelina is one of those children. Her family scattered when fighting reached their home in Leer, forcing her apart from her mother for two years. Angelina thought her mother didn’t survive but here she is, back in her arms again.

Families forced apart by ISIL back together again

When the so-called “Islamic State” was recruiting children in Mosul, 12-year-old Mohammed had to flee. It meant leaving his mother and siblings and only being able to hope he’d find them again one day.

After days of dangerous and gruelling travel, Mohammed made it to safety. “But we were really upset because our families were still in Mosul. I couldn’t sleep because I was thinking about them,” he says.

Thankfully, one of UNICEF’s local partners traced Mohammed back to his family and brought them together again.
“When I saw him again for the first
time, I couldn’t believe my eyes.” ”

Children orphaned by Ebola make it back to their families

Helvina’s one of many children who lost parents, teachers and friends to the devastating Ebola outbreak in 2015. After all she’s been through, she still finds the strength to smile. © UNICEF

Helvina lost her mother and 18 other family members during the Ebola outbreak in Liberia but UNICEF was there to make sure she wasn’t alone. Our team on the ground found family members who could take her in, reunited them and got her back to school. "I want to become a doctor so I can help people so they don't get sick and die," she says.

Keep a child safe this Christmas

UNICEF teams are crossing battle lines every day to reunite children with their familes and deliver emergency health care, water and nutrition. But we simply don't have the supplies we need to protect every child in danger.

Please stand with us. Donate now to help UNICEF continue its life-saving work for children in the world's worst conflicts, or keep scrolling to see more heart-warming family reunions.

13 of the most emotional, heartwarming photos you’ll ever see

Pure relief. A father is reunited with his family in Angola after being separated by conflict in Kasai, Democratic Republic of Congo. © UNICEF/UN068247/Wieland
Moving scenes of family reunification at the Hasansham refugee camp in Mosul. More than 5,000 people arrived at the camp in two days. © UNICEF
A beautiful moment. Seven-year-old Nyabitu is reunited with her grandmother two years after conflict separated them in South Sudan. More than 12,000 separated children have been registered by UNICEF and our partners since the fighting started - we’re working to reunite all of them with their families. © UNICEF
Peter’s heartwarming homecoming is one of over 5,000 UNICEF has helped facilitate for children in South Sudan since 2013. He hadn’t seen his family in four years. © UNICEF
“I will never allow us to be apart again,” says Nyaruon, mother to these two girls. Brutal fighting in South Sudan separated the sisters for two years but UNICEF helped reunite their family again. © UNICEF/UN014006/Rich
Families cry tears of joy as they are reunited on an airstrip in Akobo, South Sudan. © UNICEF/Rich
Families cry tears of joy as they are reunited on an airstrip in Akobo, South Sudan. © UNICEF/Rich
Once she catches sight of the plane, grandmother Nyachol cannot contain her excitement and begins to dance and sing, with tears running down her face. “It took me a long time to get to see these children, that’s why I was crying and dancing and running to embrace them,” she says. “I didn’t think these children could still be alive. Now we have hope that other families who are missing their children will see their children come back home.” © UNICEF/Rich
A happy moment in Ethiopia. In 2016, 91 children were abducted to South Sudan in a cross-border raid but UNICEF worked with government to secure their safe return. © UNICEF/UN022494/Mersha
This is where these children belong: safe at home with their mother in South Sudan. The family had been separated for two years but UNICEF helped them reunite. © UNICEF Canada
The devastating 2004 Boxing Day tsunami tore Khairuddin away from his family in Indonesia. The 15-year-old lived in temporary shelters for seven months until he registered at a UNICEF child centre. Our team got to work and weeks later he was back in his mother’s arms. © UNICEF/UNI93494/Estey
In the chaotic aftermath of Haiti’s 2010 earthquake, five-year-old Sterling was separated from her father. When a UNICEF-trained volunteer learned of her situation, they helped Sterling find her way home. Her father, ecstatic and in tears, rushed home from work: “When I received the phone call [about Sterling], I ran to a taxi. [The driver] was asking for too much money, but I said, ‘I don’t care, just take me to my daughter.’”© UNICEF/UNI80831/Noorani
In 2012, a surge in violence forced 500,000 people from their homes in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Nyuke was separated from his daughter in the chaos but UNICEF worked with local partners to bring them back together. © UNICEF/UNI137429/Duvillier

Please help keep a child safe this Christmas

Children don’t start wars.They aren’t responsible for adults’ violence but they suffer the most brutal impacts. Children who are hurt, injured and orphaned by war deserve our shock and our grief but more than anything, they deserve our help.

UNICEF teams are crossing battle lines every day to reach children with emergency health care, water and nutrition, and to reunite separated children with their families. This Christmas, we need your help to protect children in South Sudan, Nigeria, Yemen and more of the world's worst conflict zones.

Please donate to deliver life-saving supplies to children in danger.

Parents, local humanitarians and children themselves are working incredibly hard in nightmare conditions to survive the violence and deprivation of war. They’re strong and determined but they can’t get through this alone. UNICEF is right there with them, supporting communities with emergency supplies, support and protection.

Please help with a generous donation this Christmas.