DUMPED BABIES CURSE
The number of newly born babies left abandoned to die in rubbish heaps, isolated bushes and long drop toilets in KwaZulu-Natal is on the rise.
Paramedics and rescue officials say they deal with an average of two cases a month of abandoned children in the province. In most cases the babies are found dead.
In the latest find on the North Coast, Reaction SA officers stumbled on a month-old baby boy in an apple cardboard box on Saturday night.
The officers were on their way to what they thought was a robbery scene when they heard the cries of the infant.
They have named him Apple.
"We initially thought that robbers were gaining illegal entry into a supermarket after receiving a tip-off from the security guard.
"Our guns were drawn but then we heard cries coming from the nearby rubbish dump. When we investigated we found the one-month-old wrapped tightly in a yellow and white blanket," said rescue officer Prem Balram.
He said the baby was covered from head to toe and lying face down. "Whoever abandoned the child wanted him to die."
Balram called Netcare 911 paramedics who arrived on the scene and treated the infant for mild hypothermia.
"I named him Apple and he is in a serious but stable condition at Osindisweni Hospital."
Balram said his unit has discovered nine abandoned newly born infants in the past eight months. "In most cases the baby dies."
He said in one instance a month-old infant was found naked in a stream. The baby later died in hospital.
Paramedics elsewhere in the province said the problem was the same, and that newly born babies were being abandoned and left for dead.
"Rubbish and building rubble sites are popular dumping areas, and in most cases it is isolated so no one can hear the child's cries," said Netcare 911's Chris Botha.
Childline's Joan van Niekerk said she was not surprised by the increased levels in abandonment, saying it was clear that mothers who have just given birth needed support and adequate ante-natal care.
"Someone has to assess the mental state of the mother. Post-natal depression is a real cause for mothers abandoning their infants."
She said pregnant women who are not engaged or married are ridiculed and abandoned, and often abandon the baby after birth. Often there is no support from the male partner.
"We need preventative intervention at high schools to educate boys and girls about delaying sexual activity and about the responsibility of parenthood.
"Research shows that youth who are educated about these realities are more prone to responsible sexual activity or even delaying sexual intercourse," she added.