The Nightmare of a Missing Child

One Child Missing is one too many– International Missing Children’s Day

By Constance Ndeleko


The burden of uncertainty one carries of the whereabouts their child are the deepest emotional torment a parent/caregiver/family/friend and society bares. It is the an unidentified feelings where one minute you burst into hope and the next minute you drown into a depth of despair both of which are threatening your sanity.

More than 1 million children are reported missing every year.

International Center for Missing and Exploited Children (ICMEC) considers any child under the age of 18 whose whereabouts are unknown to be “missing”. This includes children who have been abducted, abandoned, separated from their parents, or are running away from a home that is not safe.

Missing Children’s Day began as an observance in the USA in 1983. The date was chosen following the disappearance of 6-year-old Etan Patz on 25th May 1979 from New York City. International Missing Children’s Day which observes the same date was launched a number of years later in 2001 and is now observed all over the world.

The extremes on which a human beings mind can stray into is quiet unimaginable when one’s child goes missing. Life turns into an emotional roller coaster that won’t ease until you can get hold of your own person.

A few days ago my cousin, a 16 year old boy went missing. I was horrified and shook most especially picturing all the things possible that could have happened to him and I can only imagine the distress my aunt and the rest of our family member were enveloped into for the five days he had been missing. It was a nightmare that everyone wanted to wake up from. Luckily he was found safe and sound thanks to Missing Child Kenya  and the general public for widely sharing about his absence.

Missing Child Kenya  a community led portal works with organizations and individuals in the child protection sector and the public to help share information on missing children using various media platforms.

This organization works indefatigably to increase search efforts at no cost to the affected families. Its goal is to boost search efforts for missing children by sharing photo posters and alerts to a broader audience and in the fastest of time as possible.

My aunt says the pain is excruciating and she cannot fathom parents and families that have traveled this path and have lost their loved ones. The emotional wringer is massive. One’s ability is to be strong and to help in the search for your child as it requires your own physical and emotional needs to push the wheels of the search mission.

One is always encourage to never give neither lose hope in the search

Coping with a missing child is a piercing ordeal for families. The process is utterly devastating and it can tear people apart. Unfortunately, the journey can lead to blame game and confrontations, family separation/divorce, suicide, physical or emotional consequences or other people could turn to drugs and alcohol abuse.

Being stuck and not knowing what you’re grieving for is drooping and an unexplainable. The emotional toll is considerable and one needs to find strength and bounce back. “Living in limbo” can be described as how families are unable to move forward when a loved one remains missing. Most swing back and forth between hope and despair. The fear of the unknown is a nightmare.

While valid and practical reasons may exist for the difficulty in child recovery in many missing child cases, sadly the majority of parents in family abduction and runaway cases carry forward a negative impression of law enforcement recovery efforts.

When a person goes missing for a lengthy time, it is referred to as ambiguous loss. Generally, there’s no closure neither conclusion to all people to move on. This is exacerbated by one’s expectation for a pleasant reunion with their loved ones.

Kenyan legislation defines a “child” as any human being under the age of 18 years. Kenya does not have specific legislation that provides a definition of a “missing child”

Under Article 127 of the Children Act, any person who has parental responsibility or custody of a child and who abandons the child commits an offense and is liable to a fine up to two hundred thousand shillings, to a term of imprisonment of up to five years, or both.

ICMEC believes every child deserves to be in the safety and security of a caring adult and when they are missing – no matter the circumstances – they are profoundly vulnerable.

In 2017, Kenya was one of the first African countries to launch a dedicated Child Protection Information Management System (CPIMS) that collects and manages information on child protection related issues, including statistics on child exploitation.

Reporting Mechanism

There is no legislation specific to reporting missing children or government-run central reporting mechanism for missing children in Kenya.

The Children Act directs any person with reasonable belief that a child may need care and protection to report the child to the nearest police officer authorized to investigate child protection issues.

Reports of missing children should be made to the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (CID), which operates investigation units for kidnapping and human trafficking. The CID is headquartered in Nairobi. Some, but not all, police stations have a CID officer on staff.

Several non-governmental organizations operate portals to report missing children. The Child Welfare Society of Kenya (CWSK) has an online portal requesting contact information from the person reporting a child missing and allows photos to be uploaded with the report

In addition, the non-governmental organization ChildLine Kenya, in collaboration with the Department of Children’s Services, operates a free helpline to report child abuse and child protection issues.

Reports of child abuse can be made 24-hours/day through voice and SMS to 116, as well as during more limited hours by chat to or email to

The helpline provides counselling, rescue, safe shelter, medical care, and legal support by working with the public, key government agencies, and child protection partners in all 47 counties.

More should be done to support families of those who go missing, given the complexity of their demand. Following a disappearance, families may be offered support services that explain the legal and financial concerns they may face. 

While such support will not make the sadness of losing a loved one go away, it may help to alleviate some of the unforeseen difficulties that come with it most especially on their mental state.

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