The story in today’s Witness about the rescue of a newborn baby girl that was tossed down a pit toilet has both uplifting and depressing elements.
What would drive a mother to do this, is the first of many questions readers may have when reading the story. It is easy to look on in judgment of the mother that threw the baby into the toilet, and while this can never be condoned, it was probably the action of a desperate woman who may have felt she had few other options.
A study by the National Adoption Coalition published online may help answer the questions formulated in response to this story. The 2014 study quotes Child Welfare SA’s estimate that more than 3 500 babies were abandoned in South Africa in 2010.
They say the contributing factors to child abandonment are restrictive legislation, poverty, mass urbanisation, high levels of violence — ostensibly gender based violence and rape, extreme gender inequality, high levels of HIV/Aids, and diminishing family support.
The study also highlights African ancestral beliefs which indicate that the ‘Western’ practise of adoption is seen as problematic.
The National Adoption Coalition also touches on the sugar daddy phenomenon as a cause of teenage pregnancy and says abortion remains a contentious issue with women choosing this option often being labelled as immoral rather than as a woman making an informed and responsible choice.
The study also says that 65% of abandoned babies are newborn and primary site of abandonment is toilets, drains, sewers and gutters. Rubbish sites are the second most used location to leave an unwanted child.
The old adage that it takes a village to raise a child is perhaps particularly apt in the context of child abandonment.
While it is easy to blame government for not placing enough emphasis on birth control, sex education and social welfare support, society must look to itself and ask what more could be done to support and assist desperate mothers.
The beacons of hope here are that the baby survived, thanks to her rescuer.
It is not the first time that Search and Rescue policeman Lieutenant Jack Haskins has lowered himself into the putrid recesses of a pit latrine to rescue an infant. Haskins has once again shown that his courage and dedication to helping the community he works in is both selfless and heroic