Inside the many high-rise flats in Pipeline Estate in Embakasi, Nairobi, live painful hearts.
With each passing day, parents struggle to come to terms with the fact that their children are at risk of disappearing.
“Who is stealing our children and where do they take them?” They ask, but they never seem to get an answer.
Children, both young and old continue to disappear under mysterious circumstances.
Posters and flyers announcing lost children are all over the estate, on walls, gates and electricity posts.
Everlyne Ndimuli, 47, a mother of four is one of the parents whose daughter disappeared two years ago. The family doubts they will ever find her, alive. “My daughter Yvonne Akhavere got lost in 2018 when she was eight years old. She walked out of the house one afternoon during a mid-term break and never returned. When I came back from work in the evening, I found the door closed from outside,” Ms Ndimuli says.
“I thought she had gone to her friend’s house so I just waited for her to come but never did, I have searched in all the places I thought she could be in vain.”
She reported the matter at the nearest police station the following morning but 24 months later, the police do not know where her daughter is or what could have happened to her. And cons have tried to take advantage of her situation.
“I have spent Sh70,000 so far to pay people who claim to have the powers to trace my daughter to no avail. Her disappearance has been a great test to my marriage but God has kept us going. “I cry to God every single day praying that one day my daughter will come back home where she belongs,” she says.
Ndimuli is just one of the many parents in Eastlands, Nairobi County grappling with the pain of losing a child. About eight of the cases posted on Missing Child Kenya (MCK) website in the last quarter of 2019, were all from Eastlands.
The MCK is a community-led portal that works with organisations and individuals in the child protection sector and the public to help share information on missing children.
A baseline survey by the MCK shows that 710 cases of missing and lost children were recorded at police stations in Nairobi in 2012/13. Many more cases are never formally reported nor recorded.
According to a 2019 report by the National Crime and Research Centre, Kenya was ranked 17 out of 19 on the list of countries where child kidnappings are rampant.
According to Maryana Munyendo, MCK Founder and Executive Director, currently, there is no database accounting for the number of missing children in the country. “Cases of missing children come from different sectors including schools, children homes and communities. We are trying to create partnerships with such institutions to create a nationwide data base,” Munyendo says.
The National Police Service releases an annual crime report and while it contains statistical information on abduction cases, it does not contain specific data regarding missing children.
According to the International Centre for Exploited and Missing Children (ICMEC), eight million children go missing annually, translating to 22,000 cases every day around the world.
Abduction cases are higher in urban areas compared to rural areas according to Ms Munyendo, with informal settlements contributing to the highest numbers.
The much younger children, she says, get innocently lost because they are still not fully aware of physical surroundings. She attributes the high cases of missing male children to the belief that every home should have a male heir.
“People therefore steal children for this reason, custodial battles between parents and separation and children running away from abuse are also contributing factors to the growing numbers of missing children,” she adds.
Other reasons are truancy, child trafficking especially pre-teen girls for prostitution and child labour. She pointed out that sexual predators are also on the prowl and strike in malls and shopping centres.
The incidences, she said, have also been accelerated by lack of a national missing child alert system. “We have started installing noticeboards in high traffic areas for missing children. We are doing our best to ensure missing and lost children are reunited with their families,” she says.