Cries of Abandoned Children

  • Dr S Muhammad Salim Khan
  • Publish Date: Jan 24 2017 9:30PM
  • |
  • Updated Date: Jan 24 2017 9:36PM
Cries of Abandoned Children

                                                         Photo: Habib Naqash/KI

We need to introspect why our social fabric has been tattered to an extent where babies find themselves abandoned by their parents in an increasing number

 

On September 16, 2012, a sanitary inspector while conducting routine round at GB Pant Hospital, he found an unusual sight of pack of clothes near a dustbin. He asked the sanitary attendant to pick it up and was dumb-shocked to find a newborn girl wrapped in it. He immediately informed the doctor on duty and the 4-5 day old baby was shifted to Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) of the hospital. Upon examination, the child had cleft-lip and cleft-palate, a congenital anomaly which treatable and correctable. Upon hearing her admission in the hospital, many desirous childless couples came to adopt her but upon seeing her birth defects in her face and mouth, no one came forward. After extensive coverage of the plight of her abandonment, both in conventional print and electronic media, and social media, a couple from central Kashmir came up to adopt her and carried her home after completing legal formalities. 

These children with cleft-lip and palate are being taken care for repair and corrective surgeries by various NGOs and she was also operated upon successively by a renowned plastic and reconstructive surgeon, Prof. Shabir Iqbal. Now she’s looking as normal as any child and is attending schools. Over my two years of tenure at GB Pant Hospital, Srinagar during 2012-2014, where I was holding an additional charge of deputy medical superintendent, I witnessed many healthy newborn babies, both boys and girls, brought to hospital, by public or police after being abandoned in other hospitals or on the stairs of the shrines, or few times after admitting a child in the Children Hospital, the parents leave the child in the hospital after giving fake address and contact numbers. 

One thing which I observed that as soon as any abandoned baby was brought into the hospital, was seeing a horde of willing childless couples queuing up to adopt the baby, irrespective of the gender, as long as the child is healthy. However, once the child has any congenital anomaly or is sick, no one agrees to come forward for adoption.

Over these years, many children were adopted and duly taken care of as the court usually follow up these cases. Recently, a newborn girl child diagnosed as a Down’s Syndrome, a genetic disorder commonly found among offspring of elderly mothers was adopted by a Mumbai-based lady who after facing lot of legal wrangles was able to take her home. The court had express concern and satisfied itself that such children are not brought into child-trafficking. 

However, 2016 also witnessed admission of two abandoned boys. In February a boy was brought by the police from the staircases of shrine of revered saint Makhdoom sahib in Srinagar to G.B.Pant with congenital neurological disorder, meningo-encephalocele. The child was kept in NICU and later shifted to Nutrition Rehabilitation Centre, a specially designed 10-bedded ward for severely acute malnourished children, established under National Health Mission. The staff at NRC include a doctor, nutritional counselor, nurses and helpers. Over last 11 months, this child, named as Salman by the staff, is being taken care in NRC and has underwent two surgeries at department of neuro-surgery, SMHS Hospital, Srinagar and as per the renowned operating surgeon, Prof. Muhammad Afzal Wani, Salman is a genius child. Salman may undergo further surgeries to correct the neurological defects and become apparently healthy child soon. Alongwith Salman, is another abandoned baby admitted at NRC who has been named as Burhan. He too has neurological disorders, supposedly due to difficult birth that led to birth asphyxia with hypoxic ischaemic encephalopathy Grade-II.

These two abandoned babies are looked after well by hospital staff over last 11 months due to lack of any governmental and non-governmental, voluntary care centre for such children.

While digging out the cause of abandonment of these newborn babies, some of these children are allegedly born out of an illicit relationship which leads to hazardous deliveries by illegal means thus risking the lives of mothers and babies who usually get injured and traumatized and later thrown into dustbins, kept on staircases of shrines or brought to hospitals and left there for hospital staff to take care of. In few instances, some impoverished families abandon babies, especially a girl child, mostly premature and low-birth weight, while as newborn babies with congenital anomalies are abandoned.

Even though, government has various welfare programmes and schemes for mothers and sick children, still no such programme or scheme has been conceived or developed for abandoned children. Further, we observe lot of people express anguish and concern for such children on social media, but these children find no takers.

In the first instance, we need to look into the circumstances of the process of abandonment and secondly we need a robust system to be developed and established for sustainable care of the abandoned babies beyond hospitals which are primarily meant to care of sick children not for abandoned babies.

Lastly, we need to introspect why our social fabric has been tattered to an extent where babies find themselves abandoned by their parents in ever increasing number. 

 smsalimkhan@gmail.com