An organization in Malaysia has responded to the large number of infant abandonments in the country by creating “baby hatches” — safe, secure boxes where parents can legally and anonymously turn their infants over to someone who can care and provide for them.
There is a definite need for these in the country. The Sun Daily reports that over 100 infants are “dumped” each year, and 60% of these children do not survive. Malaysian Royal Police’s Sexual, Women and Child Investigations Division Assistant Director, Supt Siti Kamsiah Hassan, told The Star that “[m]ost of [the infants] were found in housing areas, toilets, garbage disposal areas, sewerage systems and drains. These are common dumping grounds because there are no CCTV cameras; they are less frequented by the public and are easily accessible.”
Baby hatches offer a safe and legal alternative for surrendering a child. The temperature-controlled hatches are placed in buildings and hospitals and are monitored 24/7 — as soon as an infant is placed inside, medical professionals are notified.
The project is spearheaded by the OrphanCare Foundation, an organization that works to ensure that children from unplanned pregnancies have a good upbringing. In addition to the hope that these baby hatches will curb the number of infants who are unsafely abandoned, the organization also aims to place each infant saved with a loving family.
“More often than not, abandoned babies who are saved end up in orphanages, and this may have a negative impact on the child. We hope to prevent that from happening by getting the child adopted by a loving family,” said Riza Alwi, OrphanCare’s advocacy and communications manager.
Alwi says that since their installation, the hatches have saved 37 babies in 2019 and 45 babies in 2020. She wants to remove the stigma that some parents might feel about placing their child in one of these boxes. “We would also like to remind mothers and the public that placing a baby at OrphanCare does not mean she is abandoning the child. To us, it is an act to save the baby,” she said.
“It isn’t a crime to put a baby in a baby hatch,” OrphanCare Foundation trustee Noraini Hashim told The Hindu Business Line. “The baby hatch is a secure facility, and the infant’s life will be protected. It is, however, a crime to abandon a baby in an unsafe area.”
Within peninsula Malaysia, there are three baby hatches at the OrphanCare Foundation offices in Petaling Jaya, Sungai Petani, and Johor Baru. There are also seven hatches in KPJ Hospitals throughout the country.
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