Child abandonment is one of the troubles South Africa faces as a nation and it may increase rapidly post-lockdown due to harsher economic realities.
It is not uncommon in Mzanzi (South Africa) for a toddler discarded in a dustbin or a six-week-old baby found at midnight in a hole next to a highway.
On other occasions, it may be a toddler left with a stranger in the queue outside a shop and others die in sewers, streets, dumps, under bridges and in shallow graves.
One of the most popular reasons for child abandonment is unprepared – poor or underage parents – who did unprotected sex.
Largely new and young moms are scared to parent their children and resort to abandonment.
The Department of Social Development’s (DSD) agreed that poverty and gender-based violence contribute to crisis pregnancies. On the other hand, the DSD denied the claims of increased abandonment. It accused NGOs of withholding information about abandonments and challenging the sector to prove that the problem exists.
The DSD claims it is “strengthening community structures” to care for vulnerable children and working on the “preservation and strengthening of families” through “prevention and early intervention programmes” as part of the efforts to tame abandonment.
The department also said it offers “psychosocial support and counselling” to provide parents with “options such as making their child available for adoption”.
Crisis pregnancy is an unplanned pregnancy or a planned pregnancy that has become a serious problem to the pregnant woman because of desertion by the birth father, lack of support from her parents, financial problems, etc.
Abortion service providers claimed there was an upsurge in illegal late-term abortions over lockdown. This is also linked to the menace of abandonment and abandonment deaths.
Statistics revealed that as at early June 2020, 26 baby homes reported an intake of 58 abandoned babies over the first two months of lockdown.
Media reports affirmed the statistics for July as well. There were 50 abandonments and most of them were babies.
The Gauteng health department reported that 118 babies had been abandoned in hospitals across the province over lockdown.
These babies were found as usual in sewerage pipes, the open veld, rubbish dumps and in shallow graves. Others were fetched or rescued from buckets, streets, outside homes or in a dustbin a few meters away from a baby saver.
More than 60% of these children don’t survive – they die. Older children of 12 months to 48 months are part of these statistics.
Popular statistics says 3,500 babies are abandoned annually in South Africa but the Department of Social Development said it is now aware of such figures.
Whether small or big, the problem exists and not much has been done to reduce it.