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ABANDONE BABIES: A REAL NEED FOR PREVENTION by Syed Zahar Some make it and some of them die while

others were killed by their own parents before being dumped. Its an atrocious reality, but the dumping of hapless newborns is an inhumane crime and a problem that should not be dilly dallied at dealing with anymore. The rampancy of abandoned baby cases is disturbing. On Valentines day, a charred remains of a baby, believed to be a few days old, was found in a rubbish bin in Kuala Krai, Kelantan. On M arch 21, a newborn baby girl was found abandoned in the rubbish dump of a shopping mall in Ipoh, Perak. Then on March 26, a day-old infant was found dead in Kampung Melayu Subang. Statistics from NGOs reveals there were 228 abandoned baby cases nationwi de between 2004 and 2006. The Social Welfare Department recovered 315 abandoned babies between 2001 and 2004 and police statistics reveal an average of 100 cases annually. These figures do not include abandoned babies who died after being abandoned. Teenage Pregnancy and Sex Education Cases of child abandonment usually results from unwanted pregnancies. In most cases, it involves teenage girls who became pregnant outside wedlock and are compelled to commit the act in desperation and fear of the conseque nces. The National Registration Department statistics revealed, between 2000 and 2008, there were 257,411 newborns without fathers. He said these newborns birth certificates did not have their fathers' names. This means there were an average of 78 babies born out of wedlock each day during these nine years. Women, Family and Community Development Ministry revealed that cases of abandoned babies numbered 407 over the past five years (2005 - 2010). Prevention is certainly better than cure and educating yout hs on the risk of having sex, especially unprotected sex, is essential. The implementation of sex education in our schools is still a controversial issue despite the alarming stats. The subject has even been renamed to a more parent-friendly Reproductive Health Education since many parents feel that the term sex education implies the teaching and encouraging of sex to their children. There are two main school of thoughts in this issue. On one side, there are those who strongly advocates extensive implementation of sex education in schools, so much so that they want it to be included as a subject in the school syllabus. On the other side, there are folks who feels that is not necessary as our children are already burdened by the many subjects in their syllabus. To these group, sex education should only be carried out at schools on some Saturdays. They also feel that it should be done by volunteers from NGOs, who are passionate about the issue and their work, instead of schoolteachers. From what I understand, sex education has already been included in our school syllabus but its just implemented as a brief part of other subjects like biology, moral and Islamic studies and physical education, not as a subject on its own. Were jus t not sure if this is enough to prepare our youths for the unforeseeable. Counselling and Dealing with Stigmas While deterrence is vital in curbing the dumping of babies and teenage pregnancies, helping those who have to deal with doing the right thing is also imperative. Adoption and abortion are two options for those facing unwanted pregnancy. Nevertheless, help is also needed for those who choose the other alternative, which is, to actually raise the baby. The reality of doing so is the unavoidable inconvenience one face a s a consequence and, in this country, the problem does not end at the National Registration Department (NRD). Raising a baby as a young teenager is already tough but dealing with the stigma takes the strain on the parent(s) and the child to a whole new level. Unwed mothers, especially in this culture, are undoubtedly in need of all the moral support they can get. This is where counselling from social agencies do their big part in helping these women deal with discrimination and the NRD that can take a toll on their self-esteem and life.

Government and NGO Initiatives Women, Family and Community Development Ministry has recently revealed a plan to be used in tackling the problem of abandoned babies thats based on four strategies - advocacy, prevention, support and research. The plan by the ministry looks good on paper but thorough implementation is the order of the day. To start off the plan, the ministry would convene a meeting with the relevant agencies to implement the strategies. Prior to this, its minister, Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil had asked the welfare department officers to be on standby round -theclock in view of the rampant cases of abandoned babies. She also said they should also take the initiatives to identify cases of unwanted pregnancies in their respective areas and provide assistance to the mothers to prevent them from abandoning their babies. On top of the ministrys effort, IGP Tan Sri Musa Hassan had also recently ordered for district police headquarters to set up a special squad if they need to probe cases of abandoned newborn babies so as to track down the suspects swiftly. The police are also working together with Women, Family and Community Development Ministry in tackling the escalating social problem. Hopefully well be seeing a positive KPI (Key Performance Indicators) from these efforts. There will also be the introduction of the baby hatch system in this country. To be launched by OrphanCare, an NGO based in Petaling Jaya, the system was first started in Germany in the 1950s a way to support single mothers who cannot raise their children on their own. I think this is a wonderful and ve ry practical initiative. Not only would this help in curbing abandoned baby cases, it would also help those who want to adopt children. Persons who leaves the baby at the baby hatch centre are also assured that the babies will be adopted by families instea d of them growing up in a shelter home or an orphanage. As of now, OrphanCare already has a database of 30 parents who are interested in adopting a child. Application to adopt could also be made online through their website: www.orphancare.org.my. Two Wrongs Dont Make No Right I think, in curbing the escalating cases of abandoned babies, the main goal should be towards creating awareness among youths that abandoning of babies is not the easiest way out. We have to let them know there are places and pe ople that can provide help and its also these NGOs duty to reach out to those going through unwanted pregnancies. Society too should play their part by understanding the big picture and not discriminate unwed mothers. Accidents happen and human make mistakes though abandoning, abusing and killing of helpless children is no way to redress an initial oversight. Lets hope morals of the people in this country not deteriorate as we take this road towards achieving the status of a developed nation. After all, its not much use in having a first-world infrastructure and system when the citizens are still in a third-world state of mind.