The Sunday Mail
Last month, a woman who had a two-weeks-old baby boarded an Inter Africa bus at Mbare Musika.
She began chatting up a fellow passenger before she asked her to temporarily hold her baby as she wanted to step outside for a quick errand.
This is the last time the woman was seen, leaving the minor in the hands of a stranger.
Police were later called in.
This is a trend that is becoming all too familiar in most urban areas.
Baby dumping actually reached alarming levels last year, but through campaigns led by the Government, it seems to have been contained.
The beginning of the coronavirus in March last year has coincided with rising incidents of both baby dumping and child abuse.
Statistics provided by the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) show that Harare and Midlands lead in reported cases between January and October this year, while Manicaland had the least cases.
While there was a disproportionate increase in cases in some areas, overall reported cases dropped to 39 from 63 in the same period last year.
But the figures are still considered to be unacceptably high.
“We are worried by the recent growing trend of such cases (baby dumping) . . . Barely does a month pass without us receiving two or three cases at the hospital, and this is a new and disturbing trend we are witnessing,” said Sally Mugabe Central Hospital clinical director Dr Hopewell Mungani.
In 2020, Sally Mugabe Central Hospital recorded 15 baby dumping cases, while this year, between January and October, the figure had already reached 14.
The probability of surpassing the previous year’s figures, Dr Mungani said, was high considering the current trajectory.
Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals had fewer cases.
Last year, it only recorded four cases.
“When a dumped baby is discovered, they are taken to hospital for a check-up before being taken to a children’s home. In worst cases, the babies may already be dead by the time they are discovered. However, they still have to be taken to hospital for post-mortem,” added Dr Mungani.
There are fears some of the cases, particularly in remote areas, go unreported.
In Gokwe, one of the caretakers at Logos Children’s Home, revealed that they currently house 26 orphans, four of whom are barely two-years-old.
“Of the four, two were taken in after they were discovered dumped close to our facility on different occasions.
“The third one was found abandoned in the institution’s ablution facility, while the fourth one was handed over by the mother who felt she did not have what it takes to raise a child,” said the caretaker.
Only two of the cases were reported.
In some instances, concerned families and homes deal with the issue without involving the police, which, however, is a crime.
“All the cases were recorded in the last three months.
“ A lot is happening around villages, some of these cases are swept under the carpet by relatives under the pretext of preserving family ties.”
Increasing poverty, lack of access to contraceptives and assistance during severe lockdowns has left many mothers unable to care for their babies.
Traditionalist Mbuya Rosemary Marumba argues that in high-density suburbs, social ties and societal expectations are to blame as most people are concerned about their image and reputation.
“This has placed the youth under pressure in such a way that if one gets pregnant, they opt to dump the baby rather than tarnishing their family image, but, on the other hand, poverty also plays a huge role,” she said.
In January, a Great Zimbabwe University student was sentenced to six months in prison for dumping her two-day-old baby in Zvishavane.
In court, she revealed that being a student, she did not know what to do with the baby.
Last month, police launched a manhunt for 24-year-old Joyce Chinyama, who dumped a newborn baby at Budiriro Polyclinic where she had been admitted after giving birth at home.
A week later, another baby was dumped in Harare at the banks of a river between Kuwadzana 5 and Kuwadzana Extension.
There have also been reports of aborted babies being dumped in sewage plants and many other odd places around the country.
Zimbabwe Assemblies of God Africa (ZAOGA) Pastor Cain Moyo said baby dumping is abominable.
He urged churches to consider coming up with programmes that nurture the youth into responsible adults.
“Most boys lack maturity and deny responsibility, which leaves the girl in a fix, confused over how they will provide for the baby. This in turn forces the girl to take an easy, yet brutal, way out,” said Pastor Moyo.
“We need to play our part as church . . . let us create a responsible generation.”
Baptist Church recently established a foundation named “Pregnancy Crisis”.
The foundation is expected to assist pregnant women and offer psycho-social assistance to curb issues of baby dumping.
Chisipite Baptist Church’s Reverend Victor Chembela said most of the cases were a result of unwanted pregnancy, societal expectations and pressure from families.
“Due to access to technology, the youth now want to experiment a lot and in the process, some fall pregnant, but because this was unplanned, the guys usually disappear or deny responsibility.
“In some cases, a lady may discover that they have given birth to a disabled child; out of fear or embarrassment, they dump the baby and disappear with others, even crossing borders,” said Rev Chembela.
Traditionalist Sekuru Zivanai Makore argues that this crisis can be attributed to people who are abandoning our tradition.
Traditionally, he said, courtship was not done covertly.
“The aunts would conduct some rituals known as kupanana nhumbi whereby the boy and girl exchanged clothes as a token of promise to marry.
“In this case, it meant that the aunt was the witness in the relationship and it also eliminated chances of the boy impregnating and denying responsibility,” said Sekuru Makore.
Abandoned children who grow up in homes or in foster care are detached from their roots, which creates future challenges, he said.
“In wealthy families, raising a baby is not a big issue, but that is not the case with low-earning families. They try to run away from responsibilities by whatever means.”
Parents are also encouraged to actively counsel and monitor their children.
Similarly, unwed mothers, pregnant teens and single mothers need support from both family members and healthcare professionals as stigmatisation will drive them away from seeking help.
A 2018 study conducted by the Medical Research Council in South Africa revealed that about 3 500 children survive abandonment each year in the country.
The study also found that for every child that was alive, at least two were dead.
The same research concluded that 65 percent of abandoned children were newborns and 90 percent were under the age of one.
The Malaysian government launched a baby dumping prevention campaign in August 2019.
According to official statistics from the Southeast Asian country, 1 010 cases were recorded from 2010 to May 2019, and in 64 percent of the cases, the babies were found dead.