New Era (Windhoek)

7 August 2012

Namibia: Baby-Dumping Horrifies WAD

Windhoek — The Executive Director of Women Action for Development (WAD) Veronica de Klerk has condemned the manner in which young women simply throw their newly-born babies in rubbish bins as if they were refuse.

According to recent media reports, an average of 40 dead new babies are discovered each month in human waste flushed down toilets, while most of the dumped babies are from students.

In April 2008, staff at Gammas Water Works in Windhoek estimated they discovered an average of 13 bodies of dumped new- born babies every month.

According to a report of the Gender Research and Advocacy Project of the Legal Assistance Centre (LAC) - 'Baby-Dumping Infanticide', compiled by Dianne Hubbard - new mothers especially young mothers may feel overwhelmed by parenthood.

It says that new mothers may be convinced that they will be unable to provide for the child and they may feel that there is no one they can turn to for help.

They may be also fear they will be unable to continue with their studies.

Research also reported that it is difficult to estimate the true extent of infanticide and baby dumping in Namibia as many such cases may go unreported.

Statistics provided by police in 2003 indicated six reported cases of concealment of birth, while in 2004 there were 13, in 2005 the number had increased to 17 cases, in 2006 there were 15 and in 2007, a total of 23 cases of concealment birth were recorded.

The LAC report says there were almost an equal number of male and female infant involvement, suggesting sex preference does not play any role.

De Klerk expressed disappointment regarding the high rate of teenage pregnancies in the country.

She said she was very disturbed by headlines that appeared in newspapers of the past few weeks, such as 'Butcher confesses to slitting girl's throat', 'Mother kills her baby with battery acid', and 'Angolan pastor allegedly raped a 16-year-old girl on altar' - on which unleavened bread and holy wine are consecrated during communion.

"What has gone wrong in our society today, where did we go wrong and what on earth have we become as a nation?" she queried.

Although Namibia is certainly not unique to such evils on the African continent, it remains shameful that Namibia counts among countries in which violence against women and baby dumping are conspicuous social evils, she said.

De Klerk said hardly a day goes by without reports of women being killed, or the discovery of a new-born infant unscrupulously dumped by its mother.

Poor people scavenging for food at rubbish dumps regularly make shocking discoveries of decomposed babies among the rubble, while indications mostly point at babies dumped after normal births, which amounts to murder, she said.

The key to the issue is undoubtedly the parental home, which has failed society in the upbringing of their sons and daughters, said De Klerk.

She queried that if the abovementioned statements were not true, why do sons and daughters engage in gruesome passion killings today and dumping their babies.

She said WAD commended the Ministry of Education for having appointed close to 1 000 fully-fledged life skills teachers this year in all secondary schools, which are regarded as an extension of the parental home.

The WAD executive director said life skills as a subject is crucial to prepare learners for life, and crucial to prepare learners to respect the lives of other humans and to uphold and respect values and integrity.

De Klerk proposed that the Ministry of Health and Social Services as well as the Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare take the lead to convene a 'National Conference on Baby-Dumping, Teenage Pregnancies and Gender Based Violence'.

"Since baby-dumping has reached such alarming proportions in the country, such conference should also consider, among others, installing baby safes within selected buildings, to allow mothers to leave unwanted babies there anonymously. For the babies to at least be protected from harm and for mothers to give their children up for adoption safely, without any fear of recrimination," she suggested.

She said a baby safe is unique and secure and it allows desperate mothers to deposit their babies in a locked safe without identifying themselves.

It also allows the mother to open the door of the safe on the outside wall and to deposit the baby inside.

However, when she closes the door of the safe, the baby is immediately locked in and can only be picked up from inside.

Meanwhile, WAD recently received 15 desktop computers from PricewaterhouseCoopers.

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