Muscat: Hospital authorities are alarmed over the rising cases of infants abandoned by their unmarried mothers and the statistics show that the number has increased significantly this year compared to 2011. Between January to October 2012, hospital authorities say that 23 new-born babies were left on their premises across the country compared to 14 in the same period last year.
"It is very sad and we don't know exactly why this is happening. The fact that the dumping of infants at the doorsteps of hospitals is increasing suggests that something morally wrong is happening in the structure of our families," Waheeda Qahtan, a senior nurse at one of the government hospitals in Muscat, told Times of Oman.
Babies, as young as a day's old, wrapped in blankets, are left in boxes in the early hours of day at the entrance of emergency rooms. In a couple of cases, according to nurses, infants were left on the bonnets of the ambulances parked in front of the emergency wards.
The ministry of health makes arrangement for the adoption of abandoned babies while the ministry of social development pays monthly maintenance to couples who adopt them. They are classified as orphans and the government automatically pays for their college education when they leave school and assure them jobs after their graduation.
Social workers blame unwanted pregnancies behind the reason of abandoned babies. "Young unmarried women get pregnant and their parents force them to get rid of the babies. It is a stigma they don't want to be connected with. So they throw away babies the way you throw your kitchen rubbish," Ahmed Al Toki, a Sultan Qaboos University Hospital's social worker said.
But Al Toki says the actual number of unwanted babies is much more than what hospitals statistics show. "Families would privately arrange for the adoption of babies to couples who cannot conceive. These babies are born at home. In most cases when a girl gets pregnant her mother ensures that her father doesn't know about it although they live in the same house. So the baby will be delivered in secrecy in another house," Al Toki added.
But some young girls would also be forced to abort babies if the father gets to know about it. Local abortionists, mostly elderly women who have been doing it for years, would perform a crude operation of removing the foetus. "They do charge between RO200 and RO300 for an abortion. Sometimes, the young girl would even die during the procedure because they lose too much blood," Waheeda told Times of Oman.
Waheeda added that more unmarried women are getting pregnant now because of the educational integration of both sexes at colleges and universities. "Boys and girls now meet on the campuses and form relationships. Some of them obviously cannot wait for four years to graduate and then get married," said Waheeda.