MEC De Lille Announces Emergency Summit
Social Development Minister Patricia de Lille has confirmed that the number of babies being abandoned in the Western Cape is on the increase, saying 'the Department is organising an Emergency Summit to find practical solutions to arrest the trend.'
The Minister is inviting a Director and social worker from each NGO partner working with abandoned and abused babies and children. The Summit will run from 08H00 until 14H00 on Monday 8 November and is open to the media.
'I can confirm that the number of abandoned babies in the Western Cape has been steadily increasing over the past 19 months. About 438 babies were abandoned for the year until March 2010,' Ms De Lille says.
'This means that for every one baby that the media reports on, there are about 50 more that we deal with, but that go unreported. The time has come for all of us to work together to understand this challenge better and to put together a tough and practical Plan of Action that can speedily implement solutions.
'However, I also want to state very clearly that while the Department and our NGO partners may be losing some of the battles, I believe that we are winning the war,' says De Lille.
'Child Welfare alone placed over 3000 children with families last year. And that's just one of our NGO partners, so all of us together have protected thousands and thousands of our babies and children.
'One of the solutions the Department will strongly advocate at the Summit is that we need to do a lot more programmes on sex education and awareness, especially for older school girls,' De Lille says. 'Our top priority is to ensure that children and teenagers do not fall pregnant and have babies'.
'If people don't want babies then they shouldn't have them in the first place. We also need to call on communities to speak out to break the silence. If you notice that one of your neighbours is at breaking point, or is abusive, please contact your nearest Social Development office, or call our toll free number on 0800 220 250.'
Minister De Lille says there are many, many reasons why some mothers make the terrible decision to abandon or murder their babies.
- The primary reason - and usually a contributing factor to the other reasons - is Postpartum Depression, a psychological illness that can take hold after a woman has given birth
- Poverty - we have even seen some cases where the girl doesn't have the money to pay for a train or taxi to go for a termination
- Rape, sometimes by the girl's own father, stepfather or uncle, no one wants those children and even the mother often feels like the child is an invader in her body
- Some of the NGOs that we work with have been called to collect babies on school premises, many of them still with the umbilical cord attached. Of course, in that case it could very well have been school girls
- Then we know that the residents of some areas do not accept children from relationship with foreigners from other parts of Africa. There are many, many thousands of foreigners in the city, no one knows exactly how many, and so of course wherever there is a massive influx of people there will be more babies
- Another reason is alcohol and drug abuse
- Young women do not just abandon their babies in areas they are not familiar with. In some cases she will leave the baby with a member of her family, or in her community and just disappear
- Lastly, there are the 'sugar daddies', older men who give girls living in severe poverty small favours in exchange for sex
'We are particularly concerned that there appears to be a specific problem in the wider Khayelitsha region, which could mean that because of poverty and power dynamics there are far more women there that are being subjected to relationships they are not committed to,' says De Lille.
'The way we need to approach this very complex set of challenges at the Summit must focus on finding short term and long term solutions. The reason why we are also inviting one social worker per organisation is because they know best what is happening on the ground.'
Organisations wanting to take part in the Emergency Summit are encouraged to call Social Department Communications Officer Samantha Fourie on 021 483 3673 before the end of business on Thursday, 4 November 2010.
Cell: 084 233 381