Typically, at least two discarded babies are found in the Mamelodi City Dump every week. AIDS Hope seeks to eliminate this horrible reality.
Patience Maselela and Ladia Ngobemi work at the Mamelodi City Dump, situated about 30 km west of Pretoria, and have seen the bodies of babies that have been discarded in the garbage. According to both women, this has been a problem for as long as they’ve worked there.
“We’ve always seen this. We need help on prevention,” said Ladia, a secretary who has worked at the dump for nine years. “When the babies get here, they are always dead.”
City dump workers typically discover two or more every week, which adds up to over 100 newborn babies every year. This number does not account for babies that might also be in the plastic garbage bags, as the workers do not open these.
“The babies that are found are usually in buckets, old tires or containers,” said Patience, an advisor who has been employed by the dump for 20 years.
Unfortunately, in every case in the past five years, the babies found have been deceased. However, about five years ago a worker found a baby just outside the city dump. The newborn girl was wrapped in a plastic bag and was still alive. Workers immediately called an ambulance. Against all odds, the girl survived.
The garbage comes from the surrounding dumping areas in Pretoria, but the babies are usually brought in from garbage trucks servicing Mamelodi, the largest township of Pretoria with an estimated one million residents.
Abortions are legal in South Africa, and when asked if the babies could possibly be late-term abortions, Ladia said, “It’s not the abortion people. The women do this on their own and put the baby in there. When you put it in there with no oxygen, obviously it can’t survive.”
She continued, “We always phone the police, and they come with the government mortuary. They take information and take the baby.”
We have to talk about what to do if an unwanted pregnancy occurs, and we have to offer alternatives to aborting or abandoning a baby.
ABBA House, a baby shelter in Pretoria, plans to donate a “baby safe” that will be placed somewhere in Mamelodi East for women to drop off their babies. Workers from AIDS Hope, a ministry of OM in Mamelodi, plan to collaborate with these efforts by starting an awareness campaign to teach high school students about alternatives to abortion or abandonment.
“We have the unique opportunity to talk about making good life choices to pupils in grade seven at four local schools,” said AIDS Hope worker Anne Linke, who mentioned that a large percentage of the students are involved in sexual relationships at age 12 or 13.
“For a whole school year we teach them about the choices and challenges they will face when they grow up, especially when it comes to having sex. So far our main focus has been on HIV prevention, but we realise that our focus must be wider. We have to talk about what to do if an unwanted pregnancy occurs, and we have to offer alternatives to aborting or abandoning a baby.”