It’s been more than 30 years since the Bougainville crisis ended, but for many families on the island, the conflict’s impacts show no sign of disappearing.

Up to 20,000 people are estimated to have died in the conflict from 1988 to 1998, and many of them remain unaccounted for. Tens of thousands more were displaced.

A new partnership between the Bougainville government and the International Committee of the Red Cross hopes to reconnect families displaced during the island’s decade-long conflict.

The Office of the Missing, which opened last month in Buka, will also seek to provide closure for families by identifying people who died during the conflict.

Bougainville community worker Rose Pihei said it was a sorely needed resource.

“It can take a process to really get the two parties together a process of counselling and healing so, we have people that are qualified already here on board and then we have we have these counsellors as well in some communities,” she said.

Deputy protection coordinator for the International Committee of the Red Cross in Papua New Guinea, Adriana Caicedo Trujillo, said the opening of the Office of the Missing was an important step for families who continue to look for loved ones.

“As you can imagine the impact of missing a loved one can be profound, causing immense emotional and psychological distress,” she said.

“Trust is very crucial for this process – we are talking about very sensitive information, we are talking about potentially people who were involved in the disappearance of their loved ones, they are still alive, some of them are still alive. So all of those things are very complex and have many sensitivities.””

The Office of the Missing is part of a broader effort in Bougainville to address the conflict’s lasting trauma.