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More girls go missing as cases of trafficking rise

COUNTIES
By Mercy Adhiambo | February 15th 2021
Millicent Auma holds her grandson, whose mother was reported missing in January from their home in Soweto, Nairobi. [David Njaaga, Standard]

The last time Melvin Awuor, 16, was seen around their home in Nairobi’s Soweto, she appeared to be taking a casual stroll. Her two-month-old baby was asleep in their single-roomed house. 

“Nobody thought anything was off until her baby woke up crying but there was nobody to pick him up. Melvin was nowhere to be seen,” says her mother, Millicent Auma.

When they called her number, it was off. That was January 23 this year, and is the day Auma says their lives changed completely. 

“I came home and found the baby crying. We looked everywhere and asked who could have seen her in vain. We waited for her to come back, but it has been three weeks now,” says Auma.

Before she disappeared, Melvin, who was dressed in blue jeans and a blue blouse on the day she disappeared, had expressed plans to go back to school. She got pregnant while in Form Two after schools closed due to Covid-19. 

“She was exclusively breastfeeding, so we were waiting for the baby to get to three months so that she goes back to school,” Auma says.

Those who claim to have seen her on the day she disappeared say she boarded a motorbike around Soweto and alighted at the stage a few metres from their house. From there, nobody knows what happened to her. They reported the matter to Soweto Police station but are yet to get leads on the whereabouts of the teenager.

“Her baby cries throughout the night. We have been forced to feed him solid foods because we cannot afford milk. We pray she is alive and safe. If she reads this, we want her to know we are waiting for her to come home,” says her elder sister Meryl Adhiambo.

A few kilometres away, another family is frantically looking for their eight-year-old daughter Lillian Mutheu. It has been more than a week since Clinton Gisebe saw his only child.

His little girl left home on February 4 to go out and play on the rooftop of their house in Pipeline, Embakasi. It was not the first time she was going to play there, but it is the first that she went and never came back home.

“She had just eaten lunch when she went out to play. When evening came and children were returning to their houses, she was not one of them,” says Gisebe.

Neighbours say she was seen going upstairs with other children to play. One of the caretakers says the little girl was last seen playing at the stairs.

But nobody knows where she went after that.

Since then, Gisebe has walked around the vast Pipeline area, asking if anyone might have seen Mutheu.   

“I printed her images and have stuck them on any post or tree that I find. Her mother cries the whole day. We wonder who could have taken her,” he says.  

Data from Missing Child Kenya, a community-led portal that helps share information on missing children using various media platforms, indicates that there has been an increase in the number of children getting lost.

Even more worrying is the increasing number of children from the slums who are disappearing without a trace.

“Most cases in our database involve child trafficking. There is a direct correlation between poverty and trafficking,” says Missing Child Kenya Founder Maryana Munyendo.

The data further shows girls more likely to get lost than boys, with a high number of special needs children also disappearing.

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