Chinese student shows AI face-progression image made by AI that can help find missing children

New photo technology helps find missing kids

A novel use of technology is helping to locate missing children around the world, including 9-year-old Phillista Waithera, who vanished in Nairobi in 2021. Two years later, she was reunited with her immediate family with the use of Face Age Progression (FAP) technology, which utilizes an Artificial Intelligence (AI) app to create photos of the child to show what they would look like now. In 2021 alone, the Kenyan nonprofit Missing Child Kenya Foundation located 298 children using AI, according to CEO and founder Maryanna Munyendo. And in central China’s Hubei Provence, a group of students at the Huazhong University of Science and Technology (HUST) developed an AI system to restore and enhance old blurry photos of children who went missing decades earlier. More than 1,000 photos have been restored to improve clarity, helping reunite 11 missing children, like Sun Zhuo, a 4-year-old abducted in 2007 from his daycare in Shenzhen Province and rejoined with his biological parents in 2021 at age 18.

Image of little girls and little shoes during protest in support of "Bring the Stolen Children Home" in Ukraine

Ongoing efforts return ‘stolen’ Ukraine children

Ukraine officials have identified more than 19,000 children illegally removed from their homes and taken to Russia or Russia-controlled territory since the war began in February 2022. In some cases, Russian authorities took hundreds of children from Ukrainian orphanages and schools, according to Russian documents gathered by Lyudmyla Denisova, a former Ukraine human rights official. Many children were removed on the pretext of rescuing them from the war zone, or lured with the promise of attending camp. Others were taken from hospitals. Russian authorities have placed children with foster families, and President Vladimir Putin opened the way for Russian families to adopt Ukrainian children. The Russian strategy is deliberate, premeditated, and systematic, according to evidence collected by Ukrainian and international human rights and war crimes organizations. In March 2023, The International Criminal Court (ICC) issued arrest warrants for Putin and another official, a move that has made it easier to return children. Charities such as Save Ukraine and SOS Children’s Villages Ukraine have taken up the cause, and in recent months have tracked down and returned 387 children to their families.

Report: Migrant children still missing in Ireland

Dozens of migrant children who sought protection after fleeing war-torn countries have vanished in Ireland since 2017. A 2023 report published by University College Dublin’s (UCD) Sexual Exploitation Research Programme (SERP) indicates some of the children were victims of organized sexual exploitation. Of the 62 who are missing, 44 have reached their 18th birthday and, because they are no longer minors, child welfare has ceased searching for them. MECPATHS (Mercy Efforts for Child Protection Against Trafficking with the Hospitality and Services Sectors), a nonprofit group raising awareness of child trafficking and exploitation in Ireland, said the report confirmed what frontline workers have been telling the organization for years. “Sexual exploitation, forced labor, forced begging, criminal exploitation, forced marriage, the removal of organs, and domestic servitude—it is all happening in Ireland,” said Ann Mara, the organization’s education manager. “So, the fact that these children are missing, and there is a kind of a shrug of the shoulders, is just mind-boggling.”