Latin America & Caribbean

Jamaica launches missing children electronic billboards

Map of Jamaica

The Jamaican government says it will set up electronic billboards across the island with photos and information of missing children.

A government official said the aim was to help the public identify the children as soon as they go missing and enable the police to rescue them.

More than 1,100 children are currently listed as missing in Jamaica.

The billboards are part of an alert system launched in 2009, following the death of school girl Ananda Dean.

Four children disappear in Jamaica every day. Eighty per cent of them return home within days or weeks, but the remainder are never found alive, says the BBC's Nick Davis in Jamaica.

"These billboards should assist the public to see and identify these children quickly and call the Office of the Children's Registry (OCR) or the nearest police station," said OCR Registrar Greig Smith.

As part of the Ananda Alert System, the photos and crucial information about missing children are already printed and distributed across the country.

Some mobile phone providers also send the data to their customers.

"We think we are making some strides. There is still more work to be done," Mr Smith told the Jamaica Observer.

In the next few months, the electronic billboards will be installed in the capital, Kingston, as well as Montego Bay, Savanna-la-Mar, Ocho Rios and Spanish Town.

The latest government figures, from 26 June, say there are 1,154 listed as missing and some 190 unaccounted for in the Caribbean nation.

The United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef) says the government has made "impressive strides" to improve the quality of children's lives, but violence and abuse against children are still "a serious problem".

Jamaica has a population of over 2.7 million, with nearly one in five people living below the poverty line.

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