MORE than 2,000 children are abandoned annually in South Africa because of Aids, poverty, drug abuse and teenage pregnancies.
Most of the children are under the age of 10, as it is reportedly “easier” to abandon them in public areas such as parks and hospitals, while older children are left with relatives before the biological parents disappear.
Child Welfare South Africa has also revealed that mothers, particularly economic migrants and asylum seekers from neighbouring countries, were abandoning their children in big numbers at hospitals after birth.
It was also proving difficult to identify and find the mothers because they give false names .
The mothers soon return to their native countries without their babies, with the knowledge that the children will be safe and cared for.
Megan Briede, acting Gauteng coordinator of Child Welfare SA, told Sowetan that between 2,000 and 2,300 cases of child abandonment and neglect had been recorded over the last three years, an increase of between 8percent and 10percent year on year.
“The problem (of abandoned children) is not levelling off but showing a steady increase,” Briede said.
“Child Welfare SA has recorded approximately 2,392 new cases of abandonment (in the past year), with the majority (60 percent to 75 percent) being African.”
Current statistics put the figures of abandoned children at:
Carly Ritz of Johannesburg Child Welfare said abandoned children were pouring into her centre daily.
She said: “These children come into our centre on a daily basis. They are brought in by the police or neighbours.
“We put them in places of safety, but sometimes these are full and some have to stay (at Johannesburg Child Welfare) for an extended period because it takes a while to find suitable adoption candidates.”
Mpumalanga’s Child Welfare SA coordinator Belinda Sellers said the province had registered 500 cases of neglect and 120 cases of abuse, with 65 of these placed in temporary care.
Sellers said unwanted pregnancies by teenage mothers and HIV-positive mothers who felt “they cannot take care of an HIV-positive child” were main reasons behind the abandonments.
The problem of teenage mothers abandoning their children also extended to the Cape Flats, with chief executive of Child Welfare in Cape Town Niresh Ramklass saying cases of abandoned babies at less affluent places were frequent.
“Babies as young as 12 months old are frequently abandoned in plastic bags in open fields and residential places,” he said.
“Poverty seems to be one of the factors driving this scourge, but we realised that teenage pregnancies were also to blame.”
Ramklass said he and his team realised this after a flurry of new-born babies were dumped in school yards around the Flats.
The situation in Bloemfontein is equally precarious.
Social worker at Child Welfare Bloemfontein Ingrid Bell said they had received 15,776 calls related to child abuse, neglect and abandonment over the last year, of which 5,345 were referred for investigations.