Fact check: There are more confirmed global COVID-19 deaths than the number of children reported missing in the U.S.

Shared on Facebook and Instagram, posts claim that the number of COVID-19 deaths worldwide is less than the number of children who go missing in the United States. It is unclear if the posts mean missing children per year, or active missing children cases. In either scenario, this claim is false.

Reuters Fact Check. REUTERS/Axel Schmidt

Examples of such posts can be found here , here , and here .  

As reported by Johns Hopkins University, the number of confirmed COVID-19-related deaths around the world was 590,650 by the time of this article’s publication. The number of U.S. deaths was 138,360.  

Around the world, COVID-19 cases and deaths are likely undercounted. According to a study published in June by the National Center for Health Statistics, the number of Americans who died from COVID-19 in March through May was likely significantly higher than the official U.S. count due in part to state-level reporting discrepancies (  here  ).  

In Brazil, data from public notaries reviewed by Reuters indicate that the death toll from COVID-19 in the worst hit part of the remote Amazon region may be three times the official count (  here  ).  

According to the FBI’s National Crime Information Center (NCIC), 421,394 missing person records for juveniles under the age of 18 were entered into the center’s database in 2019 (  here  ). In 2018, that number was 424,066 (  here  ); in 2017, that number was 464,324 (  here  ); and in 2016, that number was 465,676 (  here 

As explained by the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, the nation’s leading clearing house of information about missing children, these numbers represent reports of missing children, meaning that if a child runs away multiple times in a year, each instance is entered into the NCIC database separately and counted in the annual total (  here  ). “Likewise,” the center website says, “if an entry is withdrawn and amended or updated, that would also be reflected in the total.” 

The FBI reports that in 2019, 609,275 records for missing persons of all ages were entered into NCIC, but that 607,104 of those records were “purged” during the same period (  here  ) Reasons for these removals include individuals returning home, law enforcement agencies locating the subject, or agencies determining that records entered were invalid. 

As of December 31, 2019 NCIC contained 87,438 active missing person records. A total of 30,618, or 35%, of those records were for missing juveniles under the age of 18 (  here  ). 

Reuters reported in 2018 that although kidnapped children make headlines, abduction is rare in the U.S. ( here  ). On average, fewer than 350 people under the age of 21 have been abducted by strangers in the United States per year since 2010, the FBI says. From 2010 through 2017, the number has ranged from a low of 303 in 2016 to a high of 384 in 2011 with no clear directional trend. In cases where children are abducted, it is far more common for a non-custodial parent to be the kidnapper: This was reported 2,359 times in 2017, the FBI data showed. 


False. There have been more confirmed COVID-19 deaths around the world than the number of children reported missing in any given recent year.

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our work to fact-check social media posts  here  .