Granny blamed for neglecting toddler

2008-09-03 00:00

A severe case of child neglect has shocked community members, teachers and nurses.

Apparently, a two-year-old boy was made to sleep alone in an outside hut and was found wandering alone in the street, covered in faeces and severely malnourished.

Police in Pietermaritzburg are investigating a case of child neglect after Imbali community members handed over the two-year-old boy to Edendale Hospital social workers.

The child, whose name is known to The Witness, is being kept in the hospital’s paediatric ward, where he is being treated for severe starvation. He was taken to the hospital on August 11, but the case of neglect was only registered yesterday after the intervention of The Witness. The case is being handled by the Child Protection Unit.

“For now, no one has been charged, but we are indeed investigating a case of child neglect,” said police spokeswoman Inspector Joey Jeevan.

The community members of Unit BB in Imbali are accusing the child’s grandmother (50), who cannot be named to protect the identity of the child, of neglect and abuse.

The woman said she had never intended to harm the child, but was unable to cope with her large family of seven children, including her own children and grandchildren.

She said no one is employed in the family and the child’s father, who is mentally unstable, is in prison awaiting trial for damaging a neighbour’s house. His mother’s whereabouts are unknown, but police told The Witness she is dead.

When The Witness visited the area, community members were still expressing shock at the condition they found the child in on the cold morning of August 11. The toddler was found about three houses from his home.

“A neighbour of the child found the child sitting outside her house. The child had crawled from her grandmother’s house across the road to the neighbour’s house. The neighbour called other neighbours to see the state the child was in,” said Mano Mncwabe, one of the neighbours.

The home the child lived in is in a poor condition and in a state of neglect.

The community members said the child was weak. His head was covered with faeces and he was wearing only a dirty vest.

Nurses at the hospital ward said that when the boy was brought in he was suffering from severe starvation and weighed what a three-month-old child should weigh.

“He was very dirty as if he had not taken a bath for months, and even after a bath his hair was red and straight, a sign of malnutrition. His skin on his legs has cracked open and he is very thin. He cannot walk despite his age,” said a nurse.

Before the child ended up in the hospital, community members first took him to a local primary school to ask teachers to help him. The teachers, who were also shocked to see his condition, fed him before taking him to Imbalenhle Clinic, which called for an ambulance to take the child to hospital.

“When we arrived at the hospital, doctors and nurses were also shocked. They gave him an injection before admitting him,” said Mncwabe.

One of the teachers at the school said the boy’s grandmother had more than five children who are attending the school.

“A few months ago I organised monthly food parcels for her with the Shosholoza feeding scheme. But I don’t know why this particular child was deprived of food,” said the teacher.

Other neighbours said that for the past three months they often saw the child crawling across streets with no one looking after him.

“He was always crying and half naked and only wearing the same dirty vest. Neighbours were very concerned about him, but every time we tried to talk to his grandmother she would tell us to mind our own business.”

The grandmother, who told The Witness she is training as a sangoma, said the boy was dumped by his mother at her house last year.

“This is my son’s child. His 18-year-old mother just left him here and disappeared. I also struggle to make ends meet as I’m not employed. This child does not have a birth certificate, so as a result he is not getting grants.

“I had no intention to abuse my son’s child because he is my blood. These neighbours abducted him from me. To say they found him in my neighbour’s yard does not mean that I had neglected him,” said the grandmother.

A spokesman for the Health department, Leon Mbangwa, said the child is recovering well.

The teachers who the child was brought to donated clothes for the boy to have in hospital.

It is believed that when a social worker went to visit the grandmother, she found two other children alone at home outside the house. They were eating dog food from a dog bowl. It is also believed that two other children were to be taken away from the grandmother yesterday afternoon.

bhans@witness.co.za

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