THE fatal shooting of 17-year-old Shari Distin in Hopewell, Hanover, last week moved the number of children killed across the island since the start of this year to nine.
This is more than half the number of children murdered across Jamaica in 2022, with fewer than five months gone in the year.
A further 15 children, 12 boys and three girls, were left nursing gunshot wounds between January 1 and May 6 this year.
Figures from the police showed Distin among four girls murdered in the first 116 days of 2023, while five boys were killed.
Distin was a passenger in a motor vehicle when two men armed walked into a business establishment operated by 52-year-old Claudette Samuels and opened fire, killing Samuels on the spot. The men fired shots while escaping, hitting Distin. The teenager was taken to hospital where she died while being treated.
According to police data, the 15 children murdered last year was Jamaica’s worst performance since 2019 when 12 children were killed. That number declined to 11 in 2020 when the island recorded its first of COVID-19 case, and fell even further at the height of the pandemic in 2021 when six children were killed.
The killing of the nation’s children has long been condemned, with State officials and civil society warning that the criminals are hurting Jamaica’s future.
Recently, acting chief education officer in the Ministry of Education and Youth Dr Kasan Troupe implored Jamaicans to take action to protect children in their communities and to create safe environments for their growth and development.
In a media interview during the annual Kingston and St Andrew Municipal Corporation wreath-laying ceremony at the Secret Gardens monument in downtown Kingston on May 7, Troupe said that society must never forget those children who have passed away due to violence, and must pledge to ensure that we don’t have a repeat of this kind of situation.
“I call out to those persons to: ‘Remember your children, remember your country.’ We are calling on Jamaicans to take action,” said Troupe at the event which is held annually in memory of children who have died under violent and tragic circumstances.
She said the education ministry is playing its part in ensuring that children can reach their full potential.
“We are committed to making sure that our children experience the excellence that they were created for, so we continue to make sure that they are educated and, at the end of it, they contribute to their social and economic transformation,” she said.
In the meantime, junior mayor of Kingston, Khijani Williams noted that the adult population has a responsibility to create safe environments for children.
He condemned those who “are disrupting our future through acts of violence”.