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Thread: A hatch of hope for South Africa's abandoned babies

  1. #1
    Elite Member Honey's Avatar
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    Dec 2006

    Default A hatch of hope for South Africa's abandoned babies

    IT looks like the sort of hatch where you can ditch old clothes for recycling.
    But the small, metal hole-in-the-wall has a heartbreaking purpose - it is to collect unwanted babies.
    And tragically, the worldwide recession has prompted a boom in the number of newborns dropped off in this South African "Baby Bin", with a new arrival being found every other day.
    Kate Allen, 34, is manager of the Door Of Hope charity in Johannesburg, South Africa, which runs the Baby Bin. She says: "In Britain, charity bins take clothes, unwanted toys, food or money.
    "Here they take people. It's horrible to see children given up in this way and the whole idea disturbs some people.
    "But at least the Baby Bin gives a chance of life to children who would otherwise have been left to famish at a bus stop or doorway."

    Numbers abandoned have soared from five a month three years ago to an average of 15 a month now.
    Some are malnourished, some are only a few weeks old, and many are abandoned at night because the mothers feel such shame but they can use the bin with anonymity.
    Kate says: "A girl of one left here weighed the same as she should have done at birth. It's scary."
    Worse still, carers have seen an increase in premature births because mums-to-be are too poor to feed themselves properly.
    This week Unicef warned the global cash crisis will have a devastating effect in Africa, causing more children to die needlessly.
    The proof the recession is already taking its toll is right here in this rundown street in the city that will play host to the World Cup football final next year.
    "It's shocking to see the knock-on effects of the recession," says Kate, a mum-of-two who moved to Johannesburg from Portsmouth in 2001. "Fewer rich people are offering jobs to South Africa's poor, so even the most menial jobs are drying up.
    "Women fall pregnant and have no income. With no food they are giving birth very early - some even have the child on our doorstep. We've become the only way of keeping their baby alive."
    The Baby Bin was originally set up to stop Aids orphans being abandoned on the streets. Yet now the prime reason infants are left is sheer lack of cash.

    Kate says: "People in rich countries think about how the economic downturn is affecting them, but here things are so much more brutal.
    "Since the recession we've been getting so many more kids.
    "It's heartbreaking to see mothers who just can't cope. These are not unwanted children, they are just unsustainable."
    When a child is placed in the 2ft-long bin its weight triggers a sensor underneath a blanket which alerts a member of staff at a Door Of Hope orphanage yards away.
    Admin officer Russell Ames, 23, often collects the babies. He says: "Within 30 seconds of the child being left it's in our arms.
    "That gives time for mothers to leave without being identified if they want to remain anonymous.
    "Sadly, many do. The shame and hurt of leaving their own child is too much to bear and they just disappear into the night.
    "It's horrible to imagine what they're going through as they leave their child. But many simply would not be able to face up to the reality of their situation without anonymity.
    "For us, it's a full-time job. One of us is on duty 24/7 as kids are often left in the early hours."
    Each new arrival is placed in isolation for several days for medical treatment and blood tests for diseases such as HIV and tuberculosis. It costs 230 a month to care for each child in the orphanage.

    Russell says: "Many are malnourished. I remember one little girl of about six months whose hair had turned white because she had been half starved. It was dreadful.

    Second chance ... Briton Kate Allen with two children from the orphanage. Kate is the manager of the Door Of Hope charity

    "Others have been born to drug addicts or mothers with bad diets, so they have serious deficiencies or weigh as little as 2lb."
    The charity's base on the grounds of a church in Johannesburg's violent Berea district is where each child is allocated its first cot.
    Cared for by a house mother in a six-child dormitory, they are gradually nursed back to health.
    Sadly their parents rarely return to claim or identify them. Instead Door Of Hope renames the youngsters and billets them to its homes around the city, where live-in staff work round the clock to feed, cuddle and wash them.
    The team of 24 is supported by volunteer carers - many from Britain. With around 50 children at any one time, they get through 7,500 nappies a month. But as new tots arrive at a rate of up to six a week, space fills up fast.
    The babies' futures lie in the hands of adoptive parents from South Africa or Europe.
    But since the recession bit, cash-strapped couples who might have taken in children can't face the financial risk.
    "Fewer people are coming forward," says Russell. "There is still uptake but a backlog has forced us to seek help from other orphanages to absorb the extra children. Across the region, more kids are being left. So far we've always found a solution, but other homes are now saying they're full. If it gets much worse we're going to have a crisis on our hands."
    A three-day-old boy recently symbolised the problem. He was left cut and bruised in a rubbish bin full of smashed glass and with his umbilical cord still attached.
    Door Of Hope has taken nearly 800 abandoned babies through the Baby Bin, hospitals and police since it launched in 1999. The charity relies on donations - and these have dropped in the recession.
    Kate says: "In the current climate people just aren't giving as much, It's a big worry." Kate swapped her life working as an occupational therapist in the UK for charity work in South Africa after being inspired by a TV documentary on African orphans.
    She says: "I decided I would leave everything to go and do my bit. My faith has always been important and I felt I was being guided by God.
    "I initially signed up to help for a short period but, nine years on, I'm still here.
    "At first I found myself being judgmental about the women who would leave their children in a hole in the wall. But over time I realised theirs was a misery and desperation on a scale rarely experienced by people in Britain.
    "These are people living in abject poverty who literally cannot afford to bring up their children.
    "Sometimes they leave the child in the bin then run off crying.
    "Dealing with that sort of hardship is very tough."
    In Britain the welfare state can provide for a child if the parents cannot.
    But South Africa has far less capacity to cope and babies are the hidden victims of the crisis.
    Door Of Hope is just one of a swathe of children's charities reaching bursting point.
    And as jobless parents are forced to travel hundreds of miles in search of work, older children are also being left behind.
    Thousands of homeless refugees from African countries including Zimbabwe and the Congo have also resorted to abandoning their offspring. Russell says: "Women whose men have left them will work as prostitutes before they give up their families.
    "But when they eventually end up sleeping rough and have nothing for food, they come to us.
    "The age of rejected children is climbing.
    "We're not just talking about newborns now.
    "It's more tragic in a way, as these are little people with personalities who have got to know their mums and dads.
    "And of course, when a mother and baby part, it is the parent who feels the most pain."
    For more information on Door Of Hope and how to donate to the charity, visit

    Hole in the wall baby bin where children are left by their mothers for adoption in Johannesburg, South Africa | The Sun |Features

  2. #2
    Elite Member McJag's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2007


    Poor little lambs.
    I didn't start out to collect diamonds, but somehow they just kept piling up.-Mae West

  3. #3
    Bronze Member Banshee's Avatar
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    Oct 2005


    That was horribly depressing. I can't imagine.

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