There are many Madeleines


A HEARTRENDING STORY has been dominating the news and inboxes of millions for some time now. No doubt you’ve heard of Madeleine, the beautiful little girl abducted in the Algarve, Portugal. The four-year-old went missing in Praia Da Luz on the third of May. Despite arrests and an exhaustive investigation, Madeleine is still missing.

Posters have appeared across the world appealing for help in the search. The publicity generated is phenomenal. Yet, as tragic as the Madeleine story is, it is by no means unique. In South Africa alone, between 800 and 900 children are reported missing every year. Those are only the cases police know about. In addition to this, 2000 kids are murdered in this country and there have been 5000 reported cases (but in all likelihood exponentially more) of sexual exploitation and rape of kids.

Human trafficking is rife in Southern Africa. Kids are often kidnapped and then sold into – more often than not – sexual savery. It’s a horrifying thought. Trafficking is not the only motivation for abducting kids in this country. Often they are taken in the hope that the parents will pay a hefty ransom to the kidnappers.

Whatever the reasons people have for taking children, the situation is unacceptable in this country. Sadly, while all the hue and cry is up around a little girl who disappeared on the other side of the world a few weeeks ago, very few people are aware of the hundreds of other “Madeleines” both in South Africa and elsewhere. Their fate is unknown and ignored.

But each missing child is precious. Each missing child must be found. If only we devoted as much time, effort and attention that we have to the Madeleine story to the hundreds of others that have gone missing in this country in the past year.

What can you do? The least is to be educated. The International Organisation for Migration is running the Southern African Counter-Trafficking Assistance Programme in this country and has a great website: http://www.iom.org.za/CounterTrafficking.html. The South African Centre for Missing and Exploited Children (SACMEC) also has a website which gives you all the details you need. It is http://www.missingkids.co.za. Why don’t you fundraise for them? Send chain emails about SA’s missing kids. Shout from the rooftops!

Image courtesy of the IOM.

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