Baby dumping

Dumping or abandonment of babies is increasingly becoming common.

Not only does it corrode the moral fabric of society, the practice, if not nipped in the bud, may breed a generation of desolate and bitter youth.

Although it is cumbersome to establish the frequency of baby-dumping, more often a result of birth concealment, cases reported in the media are enough to draw attention to even the deafest of all humans.

For example, in 2010, the police recorded at least 450 cases of baby dumping which means that at least one infant was dumped each day. During this year's Easter Holidays, six babies were found dumped in different places in and around Gaborone.

Social workers generally attribute baby dumping to several factors mostly social and cultural, zeroing around poverty and teenage pregnancy.

The popular theory is that pregnant teenagers more often than not struggle to cope with all the problems associated with pregnancy especially financial obligations. The chairperson of Maikano Youth Wellness Organisation, Mr Nkosi Bentu describes baby dumping as rejecting and throwing a baby away after birth and exposing it to danger and death.

His organisation campaigns against baby-dumping and has profiled women who abandon babies to be most often poor, single and under the age of 25.

“She is often a first-time mother or she is most likely to have less than Form Five level of education,” Mr Bentu said in an interview. He also stated that the perpetrator is likely to have reported physical, sexual and emotional abuse in her family or in her intimate relationships.

Mr Bentu said despite the lack of consensus on the definition of baby dumping, this category of children has attracted an incredible amount of attention in the press and child welfare agencies throughout the country over the past several years.

He further stated that there is no indication that the problem is limited to certain ethnicities, saying that additional evidence suggests that often the father would have denied the pregnancy, and the woman would have reacted with extreme anger, driving her into self-isolation during pregnancy.

He said women who discard their infants generally have made no plans for the birth or care of the child and get no prenatal care and are often not mature enough to weigh their options or the consequences of their actions.

“Reasons for killing and or discarding infants include extramarital paternity, rape, illegitimacy and perceiving the child as an obstacle to personal achievement,” said Mr Bentu.

“We believe that Botswana can still actively search for alternative methods to protect new-borns by paying attention to the factors that skew the experiences of poor mothers toward un-moderated vulnerability.”

Among other interventions, Mr Bentu said, could be intensifying public education in health facilities and communities in general, family planning, post-natal services plus support for motherhood.

He also appealed for the speedy review of the Adoption Act of 1952 as it is out-dated and that there should be a specific law to criminalise baby-dumping.

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