Baby hatch is still the best solution

It is a good alternative to curb cases of baby dumping as women will go to great lengths to save face

Graphic By TMR

THE picture of a policeman holding a cardboard box might not have any impact on anyone. However, the caption below the picture could stir anyone’s emotions.

The content of the box was the remains of a baby who was dumped in a public toilet by an irresponsible mother.

The baby was found last Monday by a cleaner. She alerted three men who were chatting near a toilet at the Kuantan Sentral Bus Terminal in Pahang after she discovered that one of the toilet bowl was clogged with water and blood around 9am.

One of the men, a 54-year-old taxi driver, went inside the cubicle to check. As he flushed the toilet, the water spilled out.

At first, the man and his friends thought someone threw a sanitary pad but upon checking, they saw an umbilical cord. As gruesome as it sounds, they had to use a wire to remove the umbilical cord.

Since the toilet was still clogged even after removing the cord, the trio suspected there must be a baby trapped. They decided to call the police.

According to Kuantan police chief ACP Mohamad Noor Yusof Ali, the cops were now tracking down a female suspect who had been seen on the closed-circuit television cameras entering the toilet at about 6am, carrying a piece of luggage.

The woman was initially in a black outfit. She came out 30 minutes later wearing baju kurung.

The remains of the fully formed premature baby were sent to the Tengku Ampuan Afzan Hospital for a post-mortem.

Just weeks before that, a deceased baby girl was discovered in a dumpster at a condominium in Bukit Serdang in Seri Kembangan, Selangor.

Serdang police chief ACP Ismadi Borhan said the baby girl’s umbilical cord was still attached when her body was discovered at about 4.30am on Aug 27.

The baby was wrapped in a black cloth and abandoned inside the garbage bin on the ground floor of the condominium. Police had also retrieved a black cloth and female undergarments near the baby.

These two notable cases were among several reported cases involving child abandonment in the country over the past few months.

Sad, but true. Based on statistics, seven in 10 infants abandoned are typically found dead and even the majority of those discovered alive usually do not survive.

Last June, Deputy Women, Family and Community Development Minister Hannah Yeoh made a shocking revelation when Selangor recorded the most baby dumping cases at 221, followed by Sabah (116) and Johor (106) between 2010 and 2018.

Public toilets were the most common locations for baby dumping with 108 incidents. Other places include housing areas (266); rubbish and refuse sites (89); and sewage plants and large drains (63).

This year alone, Yeoh said there have been 65 such cases nationwide, with Johor reporting the highest with 13 cases, followed by Selangor (11 cases) and Kuala Lumpur (seven cases).

During the same month, Women, Family, and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail launched an awareness campaign to combat a rising trend of baby abandonment. It was also aimed at encouraging affected women to seek assistance to save newborn lives.

The campaign saw informational stickers being placed on the doors of all toilet cubicles at 22 Rest and Service areas along the North-South Expressway, which serves an average of 1.5 million motorists daily.

The ministry is also implementing “locality mapping” and “strategic intervention” at areas identified by police as hotspots for baby dumping.

Last year, Dr Wan Azizah, who is also the deputy prime minister, reiterated the need to provide baby hatches so that newborns could be left safely and anonymously by their mothers.

A baby hatch, or some would call it baby box, is a place where mothers can bring babies and abandon them anonymously in a safe place to be found and cared for.

Although the concept of a baby hatch may be new to some, it is a good alternative to curb cases of baby dumping as women will go to great lengths to save face.

In fact, shame would motivate further the inclination to hide and murder the baby by abandonment.

“This is definitely better for the babies rather than them being dumped, and sadly in some cases, they could not be saved,” Dr Wan Azizah said.

In Malaysia, there is a wide range of options available to those who are unable to care for their newborn babies. KPJ Specialist Hospitals, for example, offer baby hatch services at its branches in Damansara, Tawakal, Ipoh, Kuantan, Seremban, Penang, Johor and Kelantan.

In fact, baby hatches are also available at several orphan care centres and adoption services under the ministry.

While some quarters argue that they would rather see more preventive initiatives set up so that mothers do not abandon their babies at all, one thing for sure this short-term solution would help those women who conceal their pregnancy to move on with their lives with peace of mind and the babies are in good hands.

Rahman Daros is the supplement editor of The Malaysian Reserve.