About one child every six hours goes missing in South Africa with an approximate 1 200 children reported missing every year, children’s groups have said.
The Pink Ladies group said less than 70 percent of missing children are found within the first week, but the rest never. The figures are conservative, they said. Many more went missing and were never reported.
Children, from newborn babies to teenagers, disappear through abductions or kidnapping. Some teenagers run away from home.
According to the South African Bureau for Missing People, abductions involve the unlawful taking of a minor from the control of their parent or guardian for the purpose of marriage or sexual intercourse.
NGO Help Find Our Kids says some abductors steal children to bring them up or for criminal purposes such as sexual assault while other abductions are parental and are the result of custody battles.
Kidnapping has been described as the snatching of the child from their rightful guardians for detention some distance from home. In some cases the children are held for ransom money but kidnappers have also been known to take children to keep and raise permanently.
An Institute for Security Studies study found that children who are kidnapped and abducted in high crime areas, areas where police are poorly resourced and where the judicial system is weak, are often never recovered. Areas with a history of social or political instability also have very low recovery statistics, the study says.
The National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) advises that to keep children safe requires that parents bolster their confidence. They should be taught about ways to respond to potentially dangerous situations.
The NCMEC believes the decades-old lesson of “keeping away from strangers” no longer works because the perpetrators are often known by the children.
They give the following tips for parents to safeguard their children’s safety: