The below photo, showing the smiling 19-month-old wearing a colourful T-shirt and cheerful pink Mickey Mouse hat, forms part of Missing Children SA’s #stillnotfound campaign.
It was recently started to help solve “cold cases” of long-missing children, like Rowena, whose nanny allegedly kidnapped her.
“We dedicate ourselves to each missing case,” says Bianca van Aswegen, of Missing Children SA.
“Even though there are cases that have never been solved, we’ll never give up on them, and therefore we’re doing these ‘Still not found#’ flyers to hopefully get some new information so we can find these children and reunite them with their families.”
Van Aswegen, the national case officer and national co-ordinator for Missing Children SA, thrives on reuniting children with their families. “There’s great satisfaction knowing you are fighting time and all the elements when a child goes missing and finding that child safely,” she says.
“Knowing you have a part in that is just an amazing feeling. Unfortunately, not all our cases end happily but knowing that you have done all you could is what helps.”
She joined the non-profit organisation in 2016 after studying criminology. “I handle all the cases, then we have our wonderful volunteers who dedicate their time to our organisation.”
Often parents wait too long to report a child missing. “There’s no such thing at all as having to wait 24 hours. It needs to be reported immediately. The first 24 to 48 hours are crucial in a missing child’s case,” she says, adding that parents and caregivers must educate their children on societal dangers.
The organisation’s statistics show that between May 1, 2017, and April 30n this year, 200 adults and 124 children were reported missing. Of these, 194 of the adults and 94 of the children were found.
“We have an overall success rate of 71%. For the children’s cases alone, our success rate is 75%. It’s an unfortunate reality that 2% of the children found again were found deceased.”
The bulk of cases (156) were reported in Gauteng, followed by the Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal, with the least in Mpumalanga and the Northern Cape (1).
Most often, missing children cases are fuelled by runaways, kidnappings and human trafficking. “There has been an increase in kidnappings,” she says. “Every year we see the success rate decrease. We cannot say for a fact that it is because fewer people are found again, or perhaps because more cases are reported to our organisation.”
To report a missing person, visitwww.missingchildren.org.za/page/report. The emergency number is 072MISSING / 072 647 7464.
The Saturday Star