Poignant International Red Cross Ad Shows Santa Hunting for Missing Child

International Committee of the Red Cross ICRC Santa

This holiday season is so fraught with political divisiveness, immigration crises and natural disasters, that Santa Claus has joined the fray—searching in this arresting ad for a young girl separated from her family.

The ad, from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), sheds light on the plight of loved ones who are apart.

Set in a war zone, the ad is titled “The one gift Santa can’t deliver.”

This Santa Claus is disheveled and weary amidst gunfire, smoke and burned-out cars as he makes his way on foot (no reindeer in sleigh packed with gifts) toward an abandoned building and a lost, separated child.

“Reconnecting families is as important to our humanitarian mission as providing food, shelter or water. We work in situations of armed conflict, other situations of violence, migration and after natural disaster across the world and we frequently hear that people’s absolute priority is to find out if their loved ones are safe,” said Florence Anselmo, the deputy head of the Central Tracing Agency & Protection Division at the ICRC.

The ICRC and its 190 Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies partners worldwide have been working for nearly 150 years to reunite families separated by conflict and natural disaster.

The ICRC is currently looking for more than 100,000 missing persons worldwide—the most for the organization in more than 15 years—yet the ICRC caseload represents just a fraction of missing people worldwide.

The impact of disappearances on individuals, families and communities at large are one of the most damaging and long-lasting humanitarian consequences of conflict, other situations of violence, migration and natural disasters. The organization has seen a sharp rise in families looking for loved ones in Syria, Myanmar and Nigeria.

The ad, developed by Adam & Eve/DDB, will run in markets including the UK, France, Germany, Spain, Russia, North America, Brazil and Argentina until 31 December.

“We have been reconnecting families for over 150 years and it is some of the most important work we do,” said Jenni Smout, communications manager at the ICRC. “We love how [Adam & Eve/DDB] subverted festive tropes we’re used to seeing from brands to remind us of the thousands of families around the world separated due to conflict, migration or natural disasters.”

This ad is a haunting reminder of those less fortunate this holiday season—and organizations like the ICRC that are doing something about it.

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