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Jamaica Leading the region in attending to missing children problem - international expert on children

Published:Monday | May 4, 2015 | 5:00 PMJodi-Ann Gilpin
Katia Dantas international expert on missing and exploited children.

Jamaica is leading the region in sustainable mechanisms that have been implemented to deal with the issue of missing children, an international expert on missing and exploited children has revealed.

Katia Dantas, who was speaking with The Gleaner yesterday, the start of a three-day visit to the island, in recognition of Missing Children Awareness Week, noted that there are several barriers that the country needs to tackle, but lauded efforts being made thus far.

"From my knowledge and work thus far in the Caribbean, the only country that is working with some sort of numbers and cohesiveness is Jamaica. We are not at the final stage of the research just yet, but I see where efforts are being made to deal with the issue," said Dantas, who is policy director for Latin America and the Caribbean with the International Centre for Missing and Exploited children.

"Over the last three years, I have been doing some reading and research as it relates to the Ananda Alert. My knowledge is not as in-depth, but I think strides are being made in that regard. My objective coming here is to see, first-hand, where exactly the country is, and to see how best we can assist as an international organisation," she said.

Ananda Alert is a nationwide system used for the safe and speedy recovery of missing children. The initiative involves raising public awareness of missing children, and strengthening rescue, recovery and intervention measures that are vital to the welfare of child victims and their families.

raising awareness

She also noted that more urgency must be placed on raising awareness among citizens on the importance of strong family lives.

"There is a global trend that we have noticed, where persons believe that missing children automatically equates to abduction and human trafficking. But the majority of the cases that we have encountered point to issues in the homes. I believe that we have to address the core issues of family life and abuse, in order to come to a sustainable solution," she said.

Founder of Hear the Children's Cry, Betty-Ann Blaine, in making reference to a report from the Office of the Children's Registry, which pointed to a 10 per cent reduction in number of missing children, said she welcomed the decline but warned against complacency.

"I am pleased that there has been a reduction and that some effort is being made to deal with the issue, but what I fear most is complacency," she declared.

"What we have noticed over the years is that during the summer period, the numbers always increase and the reason is obvious. Therefore, as we approach the holiday period and beyond, I want to urge Jamaicans to do their part to keep the numbers down," she urged.

The Awareness Week is being hosted by the Hear the Children's Cry advocacy group, which will involve several stakeholder meetings and culminate with a press conference on Wednesday.