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Pandemic hampers search for missing persons in Latin America - International Red Cross

BOGOTA (Reuters) - Restrictions on movement because of the coronavirus have put the brakes on the search for thousands of disappeared people across Latin America, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said on Friday.

Resolving the fate and whereabouts of missing persons is a daily challenge that needs effective and coordinated search efforts even while the coronavirus spreads, said the ICRC, which will mark the annual International Day of the Disappeared on Aug. 30.

“Even during the pandemic, family members will not stop looking for their loved ones,” Susana Lopez, coordinator for ICRC’s missing persons program in Latin America and the Caribbean, said in a statement.

“It’s important to keep supporting these families, which requires political will and coordination between all parties to meet the search, economical, and psychological needs, among others, of families,” she added.

Thousands of families are supporting each other in the search for their loved ones, including via social media platforms.

“We’re not going to stop searching for loved ones because of the pandemic or anything else,” Adelina Garcia, of the National Association of Families of Kidnapped, Detained and Missing Persons of Peru, said in the same statement.

In some countries, organizations that deal with missing persons cases closed their offices because of COVID-19, while support groups had meetings disrupted, as well as searches and exhumations.

“I was going to a self-help group, but we had to cancel two months (of meetings) because an attendee got infected,” said Maria Luisa Lazarin from Mexico, who is looking for her missing son.

The ICRC is aiding searches for the missing in Colombia, Guatemala, El Salvador, Mexico, Honduras, Peru and Brazil. Families are victims of physical, emotional and psychological stresses, which are often made worse by legal and economic difficulties, it said.

Reporting by Luis Jaime Acosta; Writing by Oliver Griffin; Editing by Steve Orlofsky