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Sunday May 30, 2010

Saving unwanted babies

PETALING JAYA: A non-profit organisation has set up the country’s first baby hatch for mothers to anonymously leave their unwanted newborns to be put up for adoption.

The hatch has a small door which opens to an incubator bed.

Once a baby is placed inside it and the door is closed, an alarm bell will alert the staff.

Risnawati Yassin, 35, who had no children after being married for five years, getting her two-month-old adopted child Mohd Farid Fatah Abdullah snuggled up inside a baby hatch that was launched yesterday. The hatch, launched by OrphanCARE, is designed to reduce the incidence of abandoned babies. — NORAFIFI EHSAN / The Star

Located at 6, SS1/24A, Kampung Tunku here, the hatch is run by OrphanCARE, a smart partner of the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry.

OrphanCARE patron, the Sultanah of Pahang Sultanah Kalsom, said she hoped the establishment of the hatch could protect newborn babies and ensure that they would be placed in suitable families.

“Frequently, we read about cases of newborn babies being left on the streets or on a stranger’s doorstep.

“It can only come from an act of a mother’s desperation. Saving even a single life would make our efforts worthwhile,” she said in her speech at the launch of OrphanCARE’s administration and operation centre as well as the baby hatch.

Minister Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil said the increase in cases of babies being abandoned was a disturbing trend.

Between 2005 and 2009, the police reported 407 such incidents in the country and 24 cases were recorded as of April this year.

Shahrizat said fear of punishment and disapproval of those around them usually compelled women or couples with unwanted babies to abandon them.

However, she stressed that the baby hatch was not an end-all solution to the problem.

“Such initiatives are part of the solution, a necessary stopgap measure to provide desperate mothers with an alternative to abandoning or taking the life of their child,” she said.

Shahrizat, who wept during her speech, said: “When I saw the baby hatch, I was heart-broken.”

She said the Government alone could not solve the problems and that parents should understand their responsibilities as well.

OrphanCARE president Datuk Adnan Mohd Tahir said women who dropped off their babies were encouraged to sign a consent form and leave their identification card numbers, which would be kept confidential.

The forms are placed outside the centre next to the hatch, he said, adding that the mothers’ details were important for the future of the babies.

So far, the organisation has nearly 200 parents on its list waiting to adopt unwanted babies, he added.

At the event, Shahrizat also announced a RM100,000 allocation from her ministry for OrphanCARE’s baby hatch programme.

Plans are afoot to set up more baby hatches in other areas.

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