KINGSTON, Jamaica, May 02 2017 – Jamaica on Monday launched a historic partnership with social media giant Facebook to find missing children.
Ananda Alert was named after 11-year-old Ananda Dean, who was found murdered after disappearing after school in 2008.
“The reality is every child is our child. We all have a responsibility,” said Floyd Green, minister of state for education, youth and information in Jamaica. “You have to keep refreshing the conversation so that people know when a child is missing, you don’t have to wait.”
Green, who noted that May is Child Month in Jamaica, said the Facebook partnership is ultimately “about strengthening our child protection system,” and acting quickly on social media to increase the odds of finding the 10 percent of missing children who never return home. The country’s Ananda Alert works similar to the AMBER Alert emergency response system in the United States.
“We have seen that the number of missing children is trending down, and the number of murdered children,” he said. “That is something we want to keep going down.”
Last year, 1,725 children were reported missing in Jamaica, according to the Missing Person Monitoring Unit of the Jamaica Constabulary Force. Of them, 1,456 returned home, but 269 did not.
That’s too many, said Nathalee Ferguson, head of the Ananda Alert Unit.
“No government would ever be satisfied with even one child unaccounted for,” Ferguson said.
Jamaican child advocates say that while the Ananda Alert, the first such missing children’s system in the Caribbean, has been a great tool since it began in 2009, it still faces public awareness challenges. They hope that by harnessing Facebook users in Jamaica, they will make the public more aware of the alert system and recruit users to help in the effort to find abducted and missing children.
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