Jamaica makes Facebook history

Emily Vacher, director of Trust and Safety at Facebook, gives a presentation about Ananda Alert.
UNICEF Jamaica

Social media has proven to be the fastest most direct way to transmit information. And with millions registered with Facebook, Jamaica could benefit and is already getting high praises as the first in the Caribbean region to implement a policy of dispensing news about missing children via the medium.

Starting May 2, alerts about missing children in Jamaica — called Ananda Alerts — will be delivered to Facebook users in the country – the first time this has happened in any Caribbean country.

The initiative is a partnership between the Ananda Alert Secretariat in the Office of the Children’s Registry (OCR) and the online social media and social networking service for the recovery of the island’s missing children.

From now on, once a child has been declared missing or abducted, Ananda Alerts will be delivered to Facebook users’ newsfeeds in targeted search areas. These alerts will include photographs and other pertinent information about the child.

The milestone beak-through agreement was announced on May 1, May day during a launch ceremony attended by Floyd Green, minister of State in the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information. He explained a partnership with the social media outlet will have a positive impact on the missing children program.

“Through this partnership, Facebook will be ensuring that once a child is reported missing and comes into our Ananda Alert system, the information will appear automatically on the pages of its Jamaican users.”

“We hope that when the public sees these alerts they will take action and not just see the upload…see the picture and pass it on by, but will call a neighbor and join the search in bringing home this missing child.”

Between 2009 and 2016, a total of 15,524 children were reported missing. This represents an average of 1,941 children being missing each year, with 78 per cent being girls and 22 percent boys.

“The good part of the statistics is that 90 percent of those children do ultimately return home. But we do want to get to 100 percent…That if a child is reported missing, we will have that child returned home,” Green added.

Last year, the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) — the police department there — reported 1,725 children missing, a decline of 11 percent more than the previous year.

Director of Trust and Safety at Facebook, Emily Vacher, said Jamaica is the first country in the Caribbean to launch the emergency missing child alert system on Facebook.

“Today, the village of people protecting children in Jamaica has been strengthened by this new partnership. If the time comes when an Ananda Alert needs to be issued, we are confident that many more people who will be in a position to be able to help will see this alert. They will receive it on their mobile devices and desktop computers,” she said.

Law-enforcement professionals will determine the range of the target area for each alert. The number of alerts people will see depends on how many are issued in their area.

The alerts will appear in newsfeeds but will not trigger any notifications to a person’s phone.

Ananda Alert is a nationwide system for the safe and speedy recovery of missing children. Within a few minutes of a child being missing, a blast goes out to all the television stations, and the OCR filters the information to its various partners.

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