KUCHING: Non-governmental organisations and private hospitals in Sarawak should provide baby hatch facilities to help address teen pregnancy and baby dumping, urges a state minister.
Welfare, Community Wellbeing, Women, Family and Childhood Development Minister Datuk Seri Fatimah Abdullah said so far, there was only one baby hatch in the state, set up by KPJ Kuching Specialist Hospital in 2017.
But she said the facility was temporarily suspended as the hospital recently moved to a new premises and was still looking for a suitable location for the baby hatch in terms of its technical aspects, safety and confidentiality.
"During discussions with several private hospitals and NGOs, KPJ has indicated its willingness to share its technical expertise and the costs needed to set up a baby hatch.
"NGOs or private hospitals interested to set up a baby hatch can get further information from KPJ," she told a press conference on Friday (Jan 29).
The need for baby hatch facilities came into the spotlight recently after a newborn baby was found dumped at Jalan Bukit Mata here on Jan 13. The case is still under investigation.
Fatimah said a baby hatch was a last-resort intervention to reduce baby dumping cases by providing a safe place for mothers to leave their newborn babies.
She said her ministry would continue to take holistic and integrated actions to reduce teen pregnancy and baby dumping through its one-stop teenage pregnancy committee.
These include running awareness and advocacy programmes for students, school dropouts, parents and community leaders.
"In view of the Covid-19 pandemic, we have developed community-based modules which can be conducted by a facilitator in compliance with standard operating procedures.
"We will also provide digital content which can be accessed through online platforms," Fatimah said.
She also said teenage pregnancy cases in the state decreased by 38% from 3,401 in 2014, when the one-stop committee was set up, to 2,099 last year.
The number of baby dumping cases, however, fluctuated between three in 2014 and five last year.
"The figures are less than 1% out of the teenage pregnancies, but this is not okay because every baby that is born has a right to live.
"So, the committee's role is to save both the mother and the baby by providing support, including prenatal care at the Welfare Department's Taman Seri Puteri centre and arranging for adoption where needed," she said.