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Abandoned babies in Africa, causes and solution

14.08.2019
Article from AFRIC Editorial
‘'Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness''. Desmond Tutu. But does this phrase still have a strong impact on the contemporary world? It would be very difficult to independently say yes to this assertion, given the events that have marked the African continent in recent times. The African continent has been termed by so many observers and pundits as a ‘'fertile ground'', this is mainly because the continent's population is very young and fertile for childbirth. According to some United Nations statistics, Sub-Saharan Africa accounted for 16% of global births in 1990. In present-day society, this figure has increased to 27%. It is anticipated that this percentage will stand at 37% by 2050. Childbirth is higher in Africa, even in nations with very low living standards and poor climate that hinder proper and healthy growth, women still give birth to children.

However, the unfortunate thing is that as the number of children given birth to doubles on the continent, the more babies are abandoned. It is now a commonplace on the African continent to see these ‘’innocent creatures” brought to live by women and later dumped either in refuse cans or on streets across countries. This has remained an overwhelming social problem that most African governments are facing at the moment. It has never been easy to compromise or ascertain why a girl or woman will endure nine months of gestation just to dump their babies after childbirth, which for some ladies is ‘life taking”. Life they say is a mystery on its own. While thousands of women are moving from one gynaecologist or from one hospital to the other in search of the fruit of the womb, others pitilessly dump their babies in gutters. Some ladies even go as far as dropping the baby in a pit toilet. What an Irony of life.

Factors that Lead to Babies Being Abandoned

Most at times, we pose questions as to what can push a lady into abandoning her baby. There are these common phrases that ‘’only the one who wears the shoe knows where it hurts” and ‘’you can never tell what to do until you find yourself in an ugly situation. This is a clear indication that even though we seek to attribute some causes of abandoned babies, only those involved in the act can truly reveal to the world what pushes them into committing such inhumane acts. That notwithstanding, social barriers and gender violence have been brought forth as the major causes why there is an increasing number of abandoned babies in Africa.

Social barriers

In a nation like Nigeria, it is a taboo for a girl to get pregnant while still under her parents’ roof. Some adolescents can’t stand stigmatization and shame. Hence, when they don’t succeed in terminating the pregnancy at an early stage, the only option is for them to endure the gestation period and later dump the child after birth. Thus, the way society perceives young girls who become pregnant at a tender age, has indirectly favoured the abandonment of babies. Most at times some children are even labelled ‘’witch babies”, hence deserted. In 2016, an undisclosed family in Nigeria abandoned a two-year-old baby to fend for himself on the streets, over fears that he was a ‘witch’. However, thanks to the African Children’s Aid Education and Development Foundation, the little boy was rescued and brought back to life through proper medical care. Imagine the number of children who can’t be located by these aid organizations, what is their fate? It is high time some societies change their beliefs.

Gender-based violence

Many people have attributed gender violence as one of the causes of an upsurge in the abandonment of children in Africa. Each passing day, many young girls are victims of rape. This exposes most of them to STIs/STDs and even unwanted pregnancies. The consequences of such an act are infanticide and abandonment. In most cases, these rape victims are not financially viable and can’t give a baby proper care. Others argue that they cannot live to see a baby who is a product of rape. In South Africa, some 110 rape cases were reported by police in the years 2017 and 2018. In Tanzania, some 1, 104 cases of rape were recorded between the year 2016 and 2018. All of these determine the number of unwanted pregnancies and possible consequences. Apart from gender violence, juvenile delinquency has also exposed young Africans. Actually determining the number of abandoned children on the continent would be a difficult task as it is difficult to account for the exact number. But, one cannot overlook the fact that the African continent has witnessed an upsurge in the number of abandoned children in public places  and refuse heap. At this juncture, young Africans need to be provided with moral education, sensitised on the dangers of early pregnancy and sexual promiscuity (both men and women have to be cautious of this. At times it is because men deny taking their responsibilities after impregnating a girl that pushes most of them to abort or desert the baby after childbirth.)

Measures taken to Curb Child Abandonment

A country like South Africa has been making enormous efforts to curb the number of abandoned babies found in the streets. As at August 2019, the National Adoption Coalition of South Africa revealed that as many as 3,000 babies are deserted each passing year in the southern African nation. An investigation carried out by the South African Medical Research Council and made public in 2016, concluded that desertion or abandonment accounted for 84.9% of child homicide in 2009. Shockingly in South Africa, child abandonment is not only common in big towns, but it is also prevalent in rural areas.

Furthermore, the creation of some non-governmental organisations, NGOs has helped to curb child abandonment over the years. Examples of such include Door of Hope saving abandoned children, UNICEF, Save the Children, the African Children’s Aid Education and Development Foundation among others.

As others may put it, if young Africans especially women are economically viable, the rate of promiscuity and teenage pregnancies will reduce. It is, therefore, a challenge to African governments to provide the youth with opportunities that would keep them busy.

Article from AFRIC Editorial

Photo Credit : google image/illustration

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