BEGINNING July 14, 1994, a massive influx estimated at 800 000 Rwandan refugees crossed the border from Northwestern Rwanda into Zaire. Local resources and international relief organizations were overwhelmed, and epidemics of cholera and dysentery led to high mortality among refugees of all ages.1-3 Among the refugees were children whose parents had died, who had become separated from their families during the mass exodus, or who had been abandoned by caretakers unable to provide adequate care. These children are referred to as "unaccompanied children" rather than "orphans" to emphasize the temporary nature of their status.
By August 15, approximately 10 000 unaccompanied children were being cared for in 21 centers in and around the town of Goma. These unaccompanied children's centers were of three general types: (1) those serving children from Rwandan orphanages or schools who crossed the border with their own caretakers or teachers and remained as a
Dowell SF, Toko A, Sita C, Piarroux R, Duerr A, Woodruff BA. Health and Nutrition in Centers for Unaccompanied Refugee ChildrenExperience From the 1994 Rwandan Refugee Crisis. JAMA. 1995;273(22):1802-1806. doi:10.1001/jama.1995.03520460086048