Baby dumping, the abandonment of newborn babies often in isolated areas, is on the rise in Namibia. A January report by the Namibia Press Agency said about 40 babies and fetuses are dumped or flushed down toilets every month in Windhoek, Namibia's capital.
Some have criticized that figure, saying it could not be confirmed. However, according to 2010 UNICEF report on children and adolescents in Namibia, "thirteen dead babies are found every month at the sewage works in Windhoek." Figures for the rest of the country are not available.
While the act of abandoning a newborn seems heartless and cruel, human rights activists say baby dumping is the end result of various factors affecting young mothers, who feel they have no alternative.
"It’s indeed a tragic situation occurring here in Namibia," said Phil ya Nangoloh, head of the National Society for Human Rights (NAMRIGHTS) located in Windhoek. "The problem is the scourge of baby dumping is quite widespread, such that according to the information that our organization has collected, newborn babies, dead ones, are discovered thrown in the refuse dump. And they are discovered by workers there."
Ya Nangoloh noted that if figures from other urban areas in Namibia where taken into account, the figure would be significantly higher. He added that there are various culture and economic reasons that lead a young woman, or even a girl, to take such a desperate measure.
"These include, high unemployment levels, abject poverty and the fact that abortion is in fact illegal, except in two cases - when the mother’s life is threatened and where rape has occurred," said ya Nangoloh.
He provided an example of what happens in most cases when a girl gets pregnant.
"She will have to carry out an abortion, or maybe dump her baby because she is afraid to be excluded from school - or she’s afraid to be named in shame. So there are various factors contributing to the scourge of baby dumping here," said ya Nangoloh.
His organization along with Namibia’s Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare are working to educate women. But ya Nangoloh said the government must do more work on the ground to directly address the problem. He added that there is little that human rights organizations can do other than encouraging women to seek help through educational programs at hospitals or to contact the police department for help.
A lack of resources is a big obstacle to young women and girls getting the pre-natal care. Ya Nangoloh pointed out that having the resources to help women is the key to ending the desperate act of a mother abandoning her newborn.