A child goes missing every five hours in South Africa, according to the Missing Persons Bureau. Wednesday is International Missing Children’s Day, which represents an opportunity to raise awareness and funds to reunite more children with their families and caregivers.
A total of 265 missing children were reported to non-profit organisation Missing Children SA last year, 200 of whom were found. However, 6 percent of these children were found dead.
In the Western Cape, 175 children were reported missing to the organisation, of whom 92 were found.
Rose MacKinnon, national co-ordinator at Missing Children SA, said although the numbers were high, the organisation was managing well on limited resources.
“Obviously we would like to reunite more families, but for what we are doing now it is really amazing,” she said.
Missing Children SA runs a “casual day” every year on International Missing Children’s Day. Anyone wanting to contribute to the cause can set up a “casual day” at their school, and sell tickets that allow schoolchildren to swop their uniforms for a day and wear civvies.
“Our point is to create awareness and raise funds to help missing children.
“Parents and children obviously don’t want to think about the worst-case scenarios. When we do this we create awareness, so they at least know whom to go to if something does happen.”
MacKinnon said the trauma of having a child go missing can affect a family for years: “It is the worst thing imaginable. That family doesn’t know if the child is coming home, they will obviously think the worst.”
Missing Children SA provides counselling and support to parents.
“We are available and we are trained to provide the necessary trauma counselling.
“We try to get the parents to realise that we will try to get the children home.”
The relationship with parents often continues for years after a child goes missing, with parents either sending in thank-yous’ after being reunited with a child, or keeping in contact for updates, sometimes long after a case has gone cold.
“I’ve got a child that’s been missing for two years now, and I still speak to the mom every week to give updates.
“We try to make sure that the parents keep believing, and that they don’t give up, because we don’t give up.”
Most children who go missing are between 13 and 17 years old.
Last year, 12 missing children were found dead nationally. A total of 37 percent of missing children were white, 31 percent coloured and 28 percent black.
Children went missing for unknownreasons, but 42 percent went missing because they ran away.
MacKinnon said they encouraged parents to “become friends” with their children so that instead of running away from home, children discussed their concerns with a responsible adult.
Missing Children SA works with police and communities. They print flyers to try raise awareness with physical details of missing children, and remain a port-of-call for relatives.
* For more information, visit www.missingchildren.co.za[Source: Cape Argus]