Child abandonment has increased significantly in the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal. According to a recent Medical Research Council study, approximately 3 500 children survive abandonment every year in South Africa.
A Port Elizabeth NGO, Hannah’s Arms, has developed a “baby safe drop box” in Zwide. The aim of the “baby box” is to help mothers give up their children in a safe manner. The baby safe box is a lifeline for infants who cannot be cared for by their mothers. Often, these unwanted babies are conceived by mothers who cannot provide for them or have fallen victim to sexual abuse.
The ”baby safe box” has been uniquely designed with a specialised pressure plate. Once triggered, it sends a signal to a cellphone to alert that a baby has been placed in the box.
Hannah’s Arms founder, Esme Chesworth, says that they are trying to put up counselling centres for the mothers.
“My heart has always been to have it here close to Dora Nginza just because the highest birth rate is here and a lot of the babies are found in the surrounding areas. So it has always been our hope that we could put it up here so it has been a dream come true for us. But it doesn’t stop with the safe, we are trying to put up centres and counselling centres where the safes are going to go up because we would like for the mother not to place the baby in the safe, but actually knock on the door where the safe is and say ‘I need help.’”
Baby Drop Box board member, Vuyani Mkoto, says they would also like to engage the mothers and give them advice.
“We also want them not to get to a point whereby they are going to abort the child or throw away the child so even before they get there if they want to come have some advice. It will be nice to engage so they don’t reach that level where they throw away the child.”
The community have welcomed the initiative.
“Seeing a child in a plastic bag doesn’t look nice. I am a mother and I don’t want a child to grow up not knowing that you are loved and cared for so the box actually gives the child hope that; at least there is someone who cares for me. So the box is the best solution other than an abortion or killing it by leaving it at a dumping site.”
Abandonment is also no longer listed as a violent crime in South Africa or included in crime statistics.
As a result, there are not accurate statistic of how many children die in South Africa as a result of abandonment but the study by the Medical Research Council estimates that for each baby found alive, two are found deceased.
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