UNWANTED AT BIRTH

DESPAIR: Door of Hope, a children's home in Berea; allows mothers to leave unwanted babies without questions being asked. Pic: PETER MOGAKI. 24/09/2009. © Sowetan.
DESPAIR: Door of Hope, a children's home in Berea; allows mothers to leave unwanted babies without questions being asked. Pic: PETER MOGAKI. 24/09/2009. © Sowetan.

CHILD care centres across the country are bracing themselves for an increase in the number of abandoned babies as the festive season kicks in.

CHILD care centres across the country are bracing themselves for an increase in the number of abandoned babies as the festive season kicks in.

Every year at this time the centres experience an influx of babies. Experts are still puzzled about why the increase is seen in September but speculate that the December holidays play a major role in the high number of unwanted pregnancies.

"Young people have a tendency to be carefree during the festive season and play recklessly. Many of them fall pregnant and give birth nine months later," said Malanie Grant of Ikhaya Likababa care centre in KwaZulu-Natal.

"Due to a number of reasons they cannot take care of the babies and abandon them. Some get caught up in the web of fun and excitement and feel that the babies are holding them back."

Marihet Infantino of Johannesburg Child Welfare Services agreed.

"This month alone we have received 19 abandoned babies. This indicates that there is a huge problem nine months prior to September. However, we can also not rule out the recession, which has hit many people hard," she said.

Gauteng is one of the worst affected provinces, followed by KwaZulu-Natal and Western Cape.

From January to July this year about 212 babies were abandoned at various hospitals in Gauteng.

The Far East Rand Hospital has been the worst affected, with 87 babies abandoned there between January 2007 and July this year.

Leratong Hospital on the West Rand had 74 babies abandoned during the same period, Thembisa Hospital in Ekurhuleni had 65 babies, Charlotte Maxeke Academic Hospital in Johannesburg 61, and Chris Hani-Baragwanath Hospital in Soweto 60 babies.

Jack Bloom of the DA said the numbers were worrying.

"This means that on average 30 babies are abandoned a month in Gauteng. The recession obviously plays a role, but many of these babies are probably born to desperate foreigners. There should be interventions at hospitals that are most affected and the areas where their patients come from," he said.

The Door of Hope in Berea, Johannesburg, offers a solution to desperate mothers. The centre has a hole in the wall in which babies can be placed without questions being asked.

In the last three months of last year the home received 31 babies and is expecting more this year.

"We have received three babies already this month. And we are expecting more as the festive season nears. Some mothers leave their babies and return months later to claim them. If she can prove that the baby belongs to her and she is able to care for the child we give them back," said Marcelline Masanga.

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