New system to help track missing children in South Asia
Professor Eddie Halpin, from the School of Computing and Creative Technology at Leeds Met, was commissioned by child rights organisation Plan International, to undertake a six-month feasibility study on their proposals to develop and deliver a Missing Children Alert (MCA) System.
Following the publication of the findings, agreement has been reached to move towards the pilot stage of the development of a Missing Children Alert System, a $4,000,000 project, funded through the Dutch Postcode Lottery, by Plan International.
Professor Halpin, who has a background in politics, human and child rights and peace and conflict resolution explains: "Children are vulnerable to many forms of abuse, amongst which perhaps the most horrifying might be the cases of missing children, who are trafficked by adults for financial and personal gain. In South Asia the problem is significant and the work of organisations such as Plan International is vital in starting to respond."
He added: "The feasibility study on developing a Missing Children Alert System has provided a framework to deliver a significant pilot project in India, Bangladesh, and Nepal, that could enormously change the lives of the 240,000 children thought to go missing every year. If partnerships can be built across the governments, and between the international organisation, and NGOs, there is a real chance of creating a change to the lives of missing children across the whole of the region, making them safer and holding to account those who might abuse them. I hope that Leeds Metropolitan University will be involved in the hard work to deliver this over the next few years and play a part in changing the lives of vulnerable, abused, and exploited children."
The Final Report of the Missing Children Alert System was presented at a Regional Convention held in Bangkok in February. The Convention included representatives of Plan International, the governments of India, Nepal, and Bangladesh, the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), The South Asia Initiative to End Violence Against Children (SAIEVAC), United Nations organisations, and NGO's from across the region.
There was a high level of engagement by government officials in the Convention, indicating the importance that the governments are giving to the issue of missing children and their desire to work to find solutions. Plan International has now created a partnership with the South Asia Initiative to End Violence Against Children, allowing a regional cooperation in the project.
There will now be further work by Plan International, is likely to involve continued participation by Leeds Metropolitan University and Dr John Lannon from the University of Limerick, in the delivery of the Pilot Project and the development of a regional response across the SAARC region.
Speaking about the impact of a potential Missing Children Alert System, Professor Halpin said: "Such a system can never answer all of the problems associated with missing children or trafficking, but it can act as a focal point to attempt to identify them and trace them, to enable rescue, repatriation, and rehabilitation and to allow them to not only survive their ordeal, but to return to experiences and a life that other children have.
"It is early days, but this is a beacon of hope and a shared aspiration of a well-motivated organisation, and staff, who are seeking to make a difference, in a complex situation. They are dealing directly with that which most of us do not see, for them it is a practical rather than a moral or ethical dilemma."