As the number of worldwide refugees hits record numbers, an app by the name of REFUNITE is trying to help.
The latest UNHCR's Global Trends Report found that by the end of 2014, 59.5 million refugees were displaced. Half of those refugees were children.
According to the UN Refugee Agency, "The increase represents the biggest leap ever seen in a single year," with that number likely to increase by the end of 2015.
To put that number into perspective, one in 122 people in the world have become displaced. If we were able to put all of the world's refugees in one country, the agency says it would "be the world's 24th biggest."
With those numbers in mind, REFUNITE is trying to remedy the situation one family at a time.
REFUNITE, is an app and service founded by brothers Christopher and David Mikkelsen. Through their vision and the help of organizations such as the UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) and Red Cross, "more than 380,000 people have already registered in the database." Their website states that over 5 million text messages have been sent and over 5 million searches have been performed.
Unlike most apps today, REFUNITE isn't about implementing a ton of complicated features. As the Huffington Post explains, it's quite the opposite: "the platform is intentionally simple, too — so that practically any type of cell phone, not just smartphones, can be used to access it."
As David Mikkelsen says in the video below, this enables refugees to "take charge of their own situation." Instead of sitting around and wondering if a family member is still alive, they now have the ability to put a technological foot forward in the midst of their tumultuous lives and have a real chance to reconnect.
The app works by using basic family information to connect them.
Since being founded in 2008, PBS says the app has helped 1,500 people reconnect, with an additional 100-150 finding each other every month. Due to safety reasons, people who register can choose to remain anonymous. Instead of names, the app uses anything from place and year of birth to tattoos or scars or even a pets name to reconnect families.
With the help of REFUNITE, stories like this one about Rahma are becoming commonplace. She was able to find her family after being separated from them for 22 years. Originally from Somalia, the family was forced to split once war erupted. In 2013, once situated in Kenya, Rahma signed up to use the app, her brother a year earlier.
After a five-hour database search, she was reunited with her brother, father and step-sisters. Twenty-four hours later she was on the phone and talking with them. It turns out they were alive and well, living safely in the United States, in Arizona.