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Home / Parenting

Child abductions: How to keep your kids safe

 Replay scenarios with your children on what to do in the event they get lost or are approached by strangers (Shutterstock)

Early this month, 12-year-old Junior Musyoka and his friend Charles Opondo would go out to play football in a small field in the Biafra neighbourhood in Nairobi Eastland area.

This was something they did a lot, but this time, they wouldn’t come back home. They would go missing, only to have Musyoka’s body with that of two other minors recovered in a thicket in Kabete days later. Opondo is still missing.

The murders are linked to a 20-year-old suspect who was arrested by the police earlier this week in Biafra in connection with the disappearance of two boys.

The police say the suspect confessed to the murders and even provided details of how he clinically strangled the minors after their families failed to meet his ransom demands.

He is said to have lured the boys from the field where they played football. He had been a frequent visitor at the football grounds and had established a fast friendship with the boys. 

According to the Missing Child Kenya Report 2020, between January and December 2020, a total of 242 children were reported missing and of these, 10 were found dead – seven boys and three girls.

Which such worrisome news, most parents are justifiably concerned. So how does one keep their children safe from potential abductors and what does one do in the event of a child abduction?

And it isn’t just strangers the children should be wary of. According to kidshealth.org, a majority of abducted children are teenagers taken by a family member or an acquaintance with only about two out of 10 kids taken by strangers. 

Keeping your children safe

As a parent, there are a number of things you can do help prevent abduction or in the event of a missing child, facilitate speedy help.

1. Ensure children know their own and the parents’ full names.

2. As soon as they are old enough, they should memorise the parents’ phone numbers and how to use a phone.

3. Children should be supervised whenever in public places.

4. Set boundaries about the places they get to go.

5. Replay scenarios with your children on what to do in the event they get lost or are approached by strangers.

6. Have secret codes with the children. Instruct them not to go with anyone under any circumstances unless that person also knows this code word.

7. Avoid dressing them in clothing bearing their names as children tend to trust those who know their names.

8. Other than the physical care and protection, ensure online safety as the internet is a fertile ground for predators to stalk kids. Know about their online activities and warn them against sharing personal information with those they might interact with.

9. Avoid posting photos and other identifying information of your kids online.

What to do when your child goes missing

1. Report Immediately

Parents and caregivers are advised to immediately file a missing child report to the nearest police station, chief’s camp or children’s office once a child has been missing for more than 12 hours.

At the station you are given an OB number for reference and the information you’ve given will be shared with investigators who will immediately begin a physical and digital search.

You need to have updated information about your kids to provide with the police. The information may include a clear and recent photo of the missing child; their age and gender; where they live and where they go to school; and any distinguishing marks they have such as birthmarks or scars.

2. Create awareness locally

If the child was last seen in the neighbourhood, spread information around so that locals who may have an idea can help you out.

According to a report by the Crime Research Centre, the community plays an integral role in addressing kidnapping and they can create awareness, collaborate with security agencies and even rescue the victims.

3. Go online

Other than offering a quick and easy way to check if your kid is featured among missing children databases online, the internet also offers a wide and real-time reach that can come in handy in addressing a kidnapping by creating awareness.

The Child Welfare Society of Kenya has an online database of missing children. Also, Missing Child Kenya shares information about missing children reported to them on their website and social media pages.

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