Policy Reform to Address Rising Baby Abandonment in Nigeria

Physicians Demand Policy Reform to Address Rising Baby Abandonment in Nigeria

Public health physicians are calling for urgent policy reform to address the alarming increase in baby abandonment cases in Nigeria. The trend, which constitutes a violation of children’s rights, requires swift action to address its root causes, including poverty, lack of support systems, and stigma surrounding unplanned pregnancies.

Recent cases of baby dumping, both dead and alive, have highlighted the need for comprehensive policy reform. Experts stress that the health implications of this trend underscore the urgency of addressing not only social and ethical dimensions but also broader public health and environmental concerns.

On June 3, 2024, the Commissioner of Police in Anambra State, CP Nnaghe Itam, ordered an immediate investigation into the lifeless body of a newborn found in a sack near a refuse dump after Aroma Junction, along Ifite Road in Awka, the Anambra State capital.

The lifeless body of the day-old baby wrapped in old clothes was said to have been dumped alive apparently by its mother, who did not want it.

According to some of the residents, the newborn was heard crying for several hours in the night before the bag was found in the morning.

However, on February 26, 2024, a premature baby was discovered dead in front of a female hostel at the Ignatius Ajuru University of Education, Port Harcourt Rivers State.

It was gathered that the male child, who was covered with a cloth, was dropped by an unknown person.

Similarly, on January 23, 2024, the Ogun State Police Command arrested a 30-year-old mother, Olubunmi Ajayi for attempting to drown her five-month-old baby, Imole Anifowose in RSS river, Sagamu.

Furthermore, one Olusola Sonaya, who was around the river at the time, was reported to have assisted in rescuing the baby after being thrown into the water by the mother.

A public health physician at Olabisi Onabanjo University Teaching Hospital, Sagamu, Ogun State State, Dr James Johnson said the lack of proper medical care and sanitation for abandoned babies, both alive and deceased, can exacerbate health risks.

He explained that infants left exposed to the elements are vulnerable to hypothermia, dehydration, and infections, which further compound the already dire situation.

According to him, the interconnected nature of health, social, and environmental issues underscores the need for a multifaceted approach to address baby abandonment comprehensively.

Physicians recommend strengthening social support networks for vulnerable families, increasing access to reproductive health services, and providing education on safe options for unwanted pregnancies. They also emphasize the need for proper medical care and sanitation for abandoned babies and implementation of measures to ensure proper disposal and care.

The government is urged to prioritize the well-being of infants and families while considering the broader health and environmental implications of baby dumping. Policy reforms should include providing accessible and affordable healthcare, improving education and awareness around child welfare, and implementing stricter penalties for those who abandon babies in rivers.