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The number of abandoned babies is growing in SA

By Faeza
12 September 2016

One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. This saying serves as a direct interpretation of a number of South African babies who are abandoned in public dustbins, toilets, rivers, foster homes, parks and at the doorsteps of church buildings.

DESPERATE SITUATION

A number of unemployed mothers find themselves in a desperate situation where they have no money or home to take care of their newborn babies, and out of fear and helplessness, they abandon their babies. Reports from an investigative television programme revealed that in Joburg alone, at least three babies are abandoned every day.

Nadene Crowder, the director of Door of Hope, a Johannesburgbased child welfare centre, shares with Move! the reasons behind the growing trend of abandoned babies in South Africa, and how her organisation and good Samaritans help to save lives. According to Nadene, almost 100 babies are brought to Door of Hope in a year by the police or strangers. These babies are usually found dumped in bushes, rivers or churches.

SHOW THEM AFFECTION

She says homeless mothers also bring their babies, and the organisation allows them to remain anonymous. “About 10 percent of the babies we have taken in were left in our box; which allows moms to place their babies inside and an alarm alerts us that there is a new baby joining our home,” Nadene explains.

“Once a baby is brought in, we show them affection by singing and comforting them. We clothe and play with them.” She says some babies come in naked, while others are wrapped in blankets and have a changing bag. “There is an estimated 3 000 babies abandoned in South Africa each year. Any public assistance is crucial in ensuring these young ones are given a fighting chance,” says Nadene.

WHAT IS GOVERNMENT DOING

It has been reported that factors which lead to the abandonment of babies cannot be eliminated without placing the blame on the mothers. Studies show that in black communities, cultural beliefs play a role in the abandonment of babies. While women might seem frightened by being judged by the ancestors for having an abortion or placing a child for adoption, the shocking revelation is that men, who are traditionally responsible for introducing their offspring to the ancestors, appear to be able to facilitate abortions or abandon the mothers of their children. Asked what the Department of Social Development was doing to solve this problem, the Deputy Director-General, Conny Nxumalo, reportedly said the department had no records of abandoned babies, but they were aware of the matter.

HAPPY ENDING

A baby girl was abandoned in Tongaat, north of Durban, earlier this year near the home of prominent community activist and Emergency Control SA chairperson, Ismail Mitha. His neighbours allegedly found the infant wrapped in a towel in a green bag. “There are millions of women out there who are dying to have kids, and this woman just dumps her child. I cannot stand that,” says Ismail.

“I have been active in the emergency industry for years, where I have pulled dead babies out of pits. This is not right. There’s a staircase near my home where people normally leave packets and alcohol bottles. We don’t pay attention to that section, but my neighbour spotted a green bag which is not the norm. “When my neighbour opened the bag, he was shocked to find a baby.” Ismail says he plans to temporarily adopt the baby.

Statistics on children in SA:

¦ There are at least 18.5 million children in the country.

¦ Of these children, 4.5 million live with neither of their parents.

¦ Orphans have increased by 30 percent over the decade to about 5.2 million.

¦ Over this same period, foster care grants have increased by over 70 percent, while adoption has decreased by over 50 percent.

¦ About 150 000 children live in child-headed homes, over 13 000 live in residential care facilities, and about 10 000 live on streets.

¦ In 2013, over 11 million children were registered for child support grants, and over half a million children for foster care grants. – Source: Hearts of Hope

USEFUL CONTACT DETAILS

¦ Door of Hope (Johannesburg) Tel: 011 432 8273 Email: info@doorofhope.co.za

¦ Sinethemba Children’s Care (Port Elizabeth) Tel: 041 451 0072

¦ Vukukhanye Community Initiative (Durban) Tel: 031 262 0958