Durban gets ready to help lost kids on beachfront

2008-12-19 00:00

Staff at Durban beachfront’s lost children shelter are gearing up for the hundreds of children who will be separated from their parents during festivities on beaches.

Every year, hundreds of children become lost in the large crowds that flock to the beach.

To ensure that these lost children do not end up the prey of sexual molesters and criminals, the municipality sets up a special shelter at Addington Primary School where the children are fed and entertained while waiting to be claimed by their parents and guardians.

At the launch of Ethekwini’s festive season plan recently, Deputy Mayor Logie Naidoo made a special appeal to parents to watch their children while they are visiting the beach.

Special tents will also be located on beaches along the Golden Mile where parents can collect their children. Those children who have not been collected will be taken to the shelter at Addington Primary School.

This festive season’s shelter will run until January 11 and will be manned by six child minders and two security guards day and night.

Another 24 child minders will also be on duty at Addington, South, Wedge, North and Bay of Plenty beaches where they will help with lost children.

A senior member from the Parks, Leisure and Cemeteries Department said they expect more lost children this year as crowds were larger than in previous years.

He said that while there has been a reduction in the number of lost children in the past three years, there are still too many children going astray on beaches.

In the 2007 festive season, more than 300 children were housed at the shelter. “Fortunately these children were all claimed by their parents,” he said.

He said that those children who are old enough to know their addresses are taken home by police.

However, not all lost children incidents have a happy ending. In 2006, a toddler was not claimed by his parents and was eventually handed over to the Social Welfare Department.

Most of the children brought to the shelter are extremely traumatised, so the child minders have to calm them down, give them a meal and sometimes a T-shirt.

“We try our best to accommodate them. Most are very scared, so we try our best to make them comfortable while we wait for their parents,” he said.

The children will only be released to adults who can provide positive identification. He suggested that parents get wrist identity tags for their children, which are available from uniformed child minders.

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