Kathmandu, September 22
The reported number of missing children has considerably increased to 2,330 in the fiscal 2017-18 from 1,453 in the fiscal 2012-13.
As reflected by the nine-yearly (2009-10 to 2017-18) statistics, a total of 15,875 children were reported missing during the period. Of them, 8,655 continue to remain ‘missing’. Annually more than 1,750 children are reported missing in Nepal. Among them, girls accounted for 55 per cent and boys 45 per cent. The untraced rate is very high (54.5 per cent). The untraced rate is considerably higher for girls (59 per cent) compared to boys (43 per cent). The fiscal 2016-17 hit a record high 2,772 reported cases of missing children. Out of the total missing children in 2016-17, 53 per cent were 17 or 18 years of age.
The higher number of girls missing from the age group of 17 or 18 years establishes the fact that missing children phenomenon is linked to trafficking, said the National Report on Trafficking in Persons in Nepal recently published by the National Human Rights Commission. The statistics are based on complaints of missing children reported to National Centre for Children at Risk (toll free number 104).
Women and Children Service Directorate of Nepal Police said the main sources of data of missing children in WCSD were the parents of the missing children and organisations, information obtained from toll free telephone number of 104, police control (100), provincial offices, district police offices through email, governmental and non-governmental organisations and child helplines. Among the provinces, the highest proportion of missing children in 2017-18 was recorded in Province 3 (30 per cent) where the majority of children were recorded in Kathmandu valley.
Looking at the untraced rate, Province 1 stands first (70 per cent). The untraced rates are between 60 to 70 per cent in Provinces 2, 5, 6 and 7, while it is the lowest in Province 3 (38 per cent) and Gandaki Province (53 per cent).
According to the age and sex of missing children in 2017-18, data reveal that of the total 2,330 missing children, 1.5 per cent were very tender children, six per cent were between six and 10 years of age, 39 per cent between 11 and 14 years, and 53 per cent between 15 and 18 years. It is found that more girls between 15 and 18 years of age (65 per cent) are reported missing against 33 per cent boys. The 12 districts with the highest number of missing children complaints are Jhapa, Morang, Kaski, Ramechhap, Rupandehi, Kathmandu, Makwanpur, Sindhupalchowk, Nuwakot, Banke, Kailali and Nawalparasi.
Trends and reasons for missing children include poverty, dislike of family environment, abandonment by parents, father or mother or both living in foreign countries, step-father or step-mother at home, friends’ luring, domestic violence and abuse, lack of caring, running away for employment without informing the family, sexual offence and trafficking, among others.
Although the WCSD data reveal that missing children are at risk of trafficking, it has yet to precisely track the missing children in relation to trafficking. Further research is needed in this area, said the NHRC report. Despite complaints with police and rigorous search by grieving families information about missing persons, whereabouts of many missing children still remain unknown.
According to the police, the search never ends, but some cases of missing can also be linked to human trafficking, murder, unclaimed death, or children leaving home to pursue a career of their own choice. “Many of the families which lodge complaint with the police do not communicate to the law enforcement agency even after the missing persons turn up at home on their own accord, or are found,” Senior Superintendent of Police Shailesh Thapa Kshetri, Nepal Police spokesperson told THT. He said that not all persons reported missing to police actually remained missing. “We recently conducted a pilot project in Province 5 and visited houses of around 2,000 persons reportedly missing till date to ascertain their status. Police found that nearly 1,800 of them had already returned home or were traced by the concerned families, but they never communicated to police about it,” he said.
A version of this article appears in print on September 23, 2018 of The Himalayan Times.