What is the power of a Facebook page? A Facebook page called Missing Children in Egypt is helping to find lost children. After uploading pictures to find the missing children on that page, 2,500 children have been found so far. A report on the Egyptian online Facebook page has been published on BBC Online.
The power of a Facebook page
In 2009, six-year-old Mustafa was visiting his sister in Cairo with his mother. The journey from northern Egypt was unbearable hardship for him. When Mustafa’s mother fell ill on the street, she sent the child to buy a bottle of water.
Then she lost consciousness. Mustafa’s father, retired accountant Abdullah, said he later found his wife in hospital but not found his child. Hospital authorities said his wife had no children with her when she was admitted.
Mustafa is lost in Cairo. About eight years of misery began. Abdallah said, my wife was lying unconscious in a chair on the street. People brought him to the hospital. The incident took place when Mustafa went to fetch water.
When people took her to the hospital, no one noticed Mustafa. I quickly reported his missing to the local police station. They told me to report to the police in my area. I informed quickly, but they told me to wait 48 hours.
“I feel helpless because the police did nothing about the disappearance of Mustafa,” Abdallah said. When my wife felt a little better, she had a stroke and was paralyzed after listening that she had lost her child. Guilt continues to work in her. Within a year, she died.
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At that time, I wanted to save both my wife and children. I went from one hospital to another to save her. I went from one police station to another to find the child.
Changes came in 2011 as a result of a massive movement in Egypt. President Hosni Mubarak was forced to resign. At that time, Abdallah had to face a terrible disaster. Many police stations were set on fire during the movement. Police reports were burned. That report included the loss of Mustafa.
Egypt went through another phase of instability in 2011 and 2012. In 2013, another round of protests began against President Morsi. He was able to make a new application to find the lost Mustafa in 2014 due to political unrest in the country.
As time went on, Abdallah’s hopes began to fade. In the meantime, he found the Missing Children Facebook page. He asked the admins to post a picture of his son on that page. However, he did not expect to find Mustafa with a picture on the Facebook page.
The Missing Children page was launched in mid-2015. The aim was to create awareness by telling stories and publishing pictures of lost children. 43-year-old engineer Rami Al-Jebali started the page. He said, when we launched the page, the goal was not to find the missing children.
But the first time a lost child is fortunately found, he changes his mind and starts looking for the lost child. A few months after the start, someone contacted about a photo from the uploaded photos. A boy was sleeping in front of a house in the posted photo, asked about him by phone. We’re sure if you send some more pictures of that child. Then I contacted the mother of the child and confirmed his identity.
After posting pictures of Mustafa in July 2015, many people demanded to see him in different places. Abdallah went everywhere but could not find him. However, on May 26, 2016, he received a phone call from the wife of the founder of the page, Mustafa was found. He seemed to get the moon in his hand.
An officer at the Child Care Center contacted with Missing Children. He said a child like a picture published on the page is at their center. They can verify if they want.
Missing Children verifies this and tries to confirm his identity. For this, they contacted Abdallah. Although Abdallah was suspicious at first, he was convinced by the cut marks on his child’s legs.
Abdallah got his son back after about seven years. He went to that child care center in Giza and met with Mustafa. He can know what happened after that incident in 2009. Abdallah said people took Mustafa’s mother to the hospital when she was ill.
But seeing his mother nowhere, Mustafa started crying. At that time, someone brought him to the police station. At that time, he could only say his name. The police station is two miles away from his lost place. From there, he was sent to a child care center. “I wouldn’t have been able to find Mustafa without the Facebook page,” Abdallah said.
Jebali said they have started a program to find the missing children and not use them in begging. They also called for posting pictures of children begging on the streets.
Then the search for the missing children began. When the picture grew a lot, they started using face recognition technology. Thus they found three children. They currently have one of the largest databases about lost children in Egypt.
At present, 13 people are working on that page, and its number of followers is 17 lakh. They have built a huge network of lawyers, therapists and educators to help them recover lost children. Due to this, their success rate is much higher. 2,500 children were found by posting 7,000 missing notices to them.
The country’s newspaper Al-Akhbar reported that between 2018 and 2019, the country’s police received 2,284 missing children. However, Jebali expects the number of missing child will be lower this year due to the Corona epidemic.
It was selected as one of the most influential pages by Facebook in 2018. Facebook has allowed them 50 thousand US dollars. They have created their own website and face recognition tool. In addition to Egypt, Page has started working in Romania.