Moms urged to seek help as child abandonments rise

2019-07-08 12:57
Co-founder of Thandi House, Mark Morcom, at their baby safe located on Langalibalele Street, between Masukwana and Retief streets.

Co-founder of Thandi House, Mark Morcom, at their baby safe located on Langalibalele Street, between Masukwana and Retief streets. (Moeketsi Mamane)

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As news headlines continue to report child abandonment incidents, expecting mothers have been urged to consult with social workers in their areas to learn about the options they have.

According to a recent Medical Research Council study, approximately 3 500 children survive abandonment every year. Estimates are that for every one child found alive, two are found dead.

The study said that 65% of abandoned children are newborns, and 90% are under the age of one.

KwaZulu-Natal MEC for Social Development, Nonhlanhla Khoza, said it was mostly emotional or societal problems that made women abandon their babies. “Financial problems are usually not the cause of child abandonment because the government has made sure that all services, including healthcare and education, are made available to people free of charge.”

Khoza urged pregnant women to consult social workers on various options available to them.

“These include placing your child in foster care where the child can be taken care of by relatives and they get a foster care grant. If no one at home can take care of the child, you can also give your child up for adoption. There is no reason to abandon your baby,” said Khoza.

Mark Morcom, co-founder of a local family-based long-term home Thandi House, raised concerns about the increasing number of child abandonment cases.

Morcom said he opened Thandi House 10 years ago with his wife, Rene, after they saw an alarming increase in babies being abandoned in and around Pietermaritzburg.

They established a baby safe on Langalibalele Street, between Masukwana and Retief streets, which is a safe place for mothers to abandon their babies. “Mothers can open the door and place the baby inside, when they close the door it locks then it automatically calls our volunteers and whoever is available or is the closest, comes to collect the baby. The baby is taken for a medical check-up then we involve the police and social workers to start the legal processes.

“This includes putting the baby’s picture in the newspaper asking for any relatives to come forward to claim the child. If no one comes forward, we take the child into our care and we raise them,” said Morcom.

He said when they started the baby safe there was an average of three to five babies abandoned every week in Pietermaritzburg alone.

Morcom said things started to change when hospitals were able to help vulnerable mothers. “We saw the rate of child abandonment go down to almost nothing, until recently.”

Last Friday, Morcom said he collected an abandoned baby from Jika Joe. “Child abandonment is definitely on the rise again. In the space of two months we have dealt with two cases of abandoned babies, which is a lot.”

Nonhlanhla Shange, programme director at the Pietermaritzburg SOS Children’s Villages, also urged mothers to seek the support of local social workers who can help them to make better decisions for themselves and their families.

Several cases since January

On Wednesday, the body of a newborn baby boy was found buried under piles of trash at the New England Road Landfill Site. The body was discovered by the waste pickers as they scavenged for recyclables.

On June 28, a foetus was found on a FlySafair flight from Durban to Johannesburg.

Earlier that week, a newborn baby with its umbilical cord still attached, was found abandoned under a tree in Phoenix.

In February, the police recovered a body of a baby thrown into a pit toilet in Mpendle. A 23-year-old woman was arrested.

In January, The Witness reported that a newborn baby girl was found abandoned in front of an elderly woman’s gate in Ashdown, Edendale. Medics said the baby was about seven days old.

The Witness also reported that month that a woman was arrested for trying to kill her newborn baby and is also suspected of killing another baby, after small bones were found in a shallow grave at her home.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  child abandonment
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