By Anja van den Berg
A child goes missing every five hours in South Africa, according to Missing Children South Africa. This adds up to more than 1600 children every year. At least 23% of these children are never found.
Trafficking in children is a global problem affecting large numbers of children. According to The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) and World Concern, some estimates have as many as 1.2 million children being trafficked every year.
World Concern is a Christian global relief and development agency extending opportunity and hope to people facing extreme poverty.
The reality is undeniable – there is a real demand for children to be traded into forced labour or for sexual exploitation.
“The most important thing in terms of missing persons is to report the case immediately so that the police can start investigating,” says previous SAPS spokesperson Captain Gerald Mfeka. “It used to be that parents would have to wait for a 24-hour period; now that rule has been amended to immediately because the first 24 hours after a child goes missing are the most crucial.”
What should you do when your child goes missing? Follow the steps below:
- The sooner the investigation starts, the higher the chances are of finding the child.
- Go to a SAPS station immediately. Report the missing child straightaway. Do not wait for 24 hours.
- Produce a recent photograph of the missing person. This will help the police and public identify him or her.
- Give a complete description of the missing child’s last whereabouts.
- Describe the clothes that the missing child was wearing when he or she went missing, as well as any information that can assist the investigating officer, such as his or her age, height, hair colour, eye colour, and any identifying marks such as scars or birthmarks.
- Complete and sign a SAPS 55(A) form which you can get at the police station.
- Obtain the investigating officer’s contact details and keep him or her updated about any additional information that might become available.
- Consider contacting organisations like The Pink Ladies Organisation for Missing Children and Missing Children South Africa.
- The Pink Ladies are an independent group of volunteers, affiliated and associated with The Pink Ladies (a registered Section 21 NGO). The organisation was established for the primary purpose of reuniting missing and endangered children and loved ones with their families. The group does not charge for its services which are provided strictly voluntarily.
- Missing Children SA assists the South African Police Service in finding people and creating national awareness.
- If a missing child is found or returns voluntarily, inform the investigating officer immediately and fill in a SAPS 92 form to notify the Bureau of Missing Persons.
Of course, prevention is better than cure. Teach your children to never to leave home without your permission. Very young children should play only in areas away from the street, such as a backyard, or in a play area supervised by a responsible adult. Teach your children to scream ‘This is not my mommy/daddy!’ when accosted by a stranger in a mall. Finally, talk to your children about child abduction in a simple, non-threatening way.
Missing Children South Africa: http://missingchildren.org.za/page/about/
East Coast Radio: https://www.ecr.co.za/lifestyle/family/how-report-missing-child/
The Pink Ladies Organisation for Missing Children: http://thepinkladiesza.weebly.com/