AND KUTLWANO OLIFANT
SOME of them somehow survive shallow graves, hours in murky pit toilets and cold, stinking dump sites.
Yesterday, yet another baby was added to a long list of newborns dumped by their mothers soon after birth – one of an estimated 200 found abandoned in Joburg and Soweto every month.
On an average, only 60 are found alive each month.
Yesterday was a lucky day.
Wrapped in a black refuse bag and tossed into an open field at Dhlamini in Soweto, it was the little boy’s movements that caught the attention of a 13-year-old passerby.
Yesterday was this abandoned baby’s lucky day, as it was rescued and taken to hospital for treatment – unlike the baby found dead in a basket in Soweto last month, or the one whose remaining limbs were seen eaten by a pig in Taung, North West, last year.
“The young teenager was just walking around when he noticed something moving inside a plastic bag. He ran and fetched an older man… inside they found a one-day-old baby boy and called the police,” said police spokesman Warrant Officer Kay Makhubela.
Only two days earlier, another newborn had been left on the doorstep of a house in Zola, Soweto.
“We don’t know who dropped the child off on the doorstep… We are appealing to residents to assist us,” said Makhubela.
Desperation brought on by unemployment, casual relationships that often see fathers disappearing once women fell pregnant, and teenagers concealing their pregnancies from their parents, are frequent reasons given for the rise in child abandonment cases.
Makhubela said most mothers, once traced, plead poverty, “saying their children’s father had left, or that they did not have money”.
What most do not realise is that abandoning a child could lead to a charge of murder, he said.
Nkosi’s Haven director Gail Johnson condemned the abandonments, saying women had options to prevent pregnancies.
“Whether you have support or not, you knew from day one that this was an unwanted pregnancy. Why dump a beautiful soul? You should have prevented the pregnancy by visiting family planning clinics, or terminated it at an early stage,”
However, Mbuyiselo Botha, of the Sonke Gender Justice Network, said it was advisable to reflect on the “country’s social system” instead of condemning the women without understanding their situation. “It may be easy to condemn women who have abandoned children as reckless, but our holistic approach would be on how to ensure that women feel secure and safe to raise babies in a secure environment.
“There must be other reasons why a normal woman would just abandon a baby,” he said.
“Lack of support perhaps? Maybe she had been abandoned herself. It can’t be easy to just dump the baby.”
He said women often opted to dump their babies instead of putting them up for adoption for fear of being “stigmatised and vilified” as they often were by health care workers in their communities.
It is for this reason that Door of Hope founder Cheryl Allen is working on a plan to establish drop-off zones in Soweto and Diepsloot to give women “safer” places to leave their babies.
“On average, between four and 18 children are dropped off at our centres per month. We take them all… We get them adopted – locally first, then internationally. We are trying to set up a centre in Soweto. No one has been willing to help, but we have got a contact in Orlando. We also tried to put a box in Diepsloot.
“A mother cut up her baby and threw the pieces all over so we are trying to find a suitable place there,” said Allen.
“The Door of Hope has saved nearly 1 000 babies since its creation, but there are still hundreds abandoned each month,” she said.