Muscat: Officials at Muscat Festival are working until midnight during the weekends to ensure that ‘lost’ children – some as young as two – are returned to their parents.
Children who wander off are found by either Royal Oman Police (ROP) officers or citizens and brought to the information centre at the venue run by Muscat Municipality.
Haseena Al Bulushi, an administrator in Muscat Municipality’s media and awareness wing, said that despite repeated advisories being issued to parents by the municipality, lost children appear at the office every day and especially during the weekends, where as many as 30 a day turn up – with no sign of their parents.
“On the weekdays, anywhere between 15 and 20 kids get lost. On the weekends, the number increases to 30 or even more,” Al Bulushi said.
She added that it was evident that most of the kids were getting lost at the playground because they wander off from playgrounds within the site, having been left there by their parents.
“We are all moms here, so, we sympathise. We try to calm them down by giving them candy and chocolates. Today, we ran out of candy by 9:00 pm,” she said.
The municipality official revealed that children as young as two and old as 14 get lost at the festival. “Sometimes older kids are brought to us because they don’t have their parents’ mobile numbers memorised. In other cases, their mobile batteries die, which forces them to use our phones instead,” she added.
She said that children wandering off was, in large part, a communication problem.
“Maybe the younger children don’t understand it when their parents tell them to stay at the playground and not wander off.”
“Also, when some of these kids are brought to us, they are not able to talk. Muscat Municipality had advised parents to put wristbands on their children bearing an adult or parent’s name and number. They had even provided these wristbands at Muscat Festival last year. However, they aren’t doing so this year."
Al Bulushi said that many parents had been reluctant in buying and using these wristbands for several reasons.
“Many mothers don’t feel comfortable putting their numbers on these bracelets, because they don’t want to make their numbers public.
“Instead, they would put their husband’s number on the band. Sometimes, the husbands are not at the venue and when we contact them, they get angry at their wives for losing the children,” Al Bulushi added.
She advised parents to be especially careful with younger children as they can be lost in the blink of an eye.
The Royal Oman Police (ROP) once again called upon parents to keep an eye on their kids.“Many times, kids get lost because parents do not watch the kids, especially in crowded areas.
Parents should, therefore, never lose sight of their children, never leave them alone in games areas and not ask them to buy things by themselves.
Until parents take precautions, kids will continue to get lost,” an ROP official said.
Muscat Municipality data disclosed that more than 400,000 people had visited all venues of Muscat Festival in the opening two weeks.