Cases of abandoned babies call for practical and workable solutions, not finger pointing

These developments are a crying shame. While newborn babies being abandoned is nothing new to Samoa – and many other countries in the world for that matter- it doesn’t make us feel any better every time it happens.

The worry is that it is happening a lot in this country, not just with Samoans in Samoa but also with Samoans overseas. It is an indication that as a people, we have got a huge problem that’s screaming out for a solution.

The issue is that while as a community everyone has an opinion about it – and we’ve been saying a lot – the truth is that judging from the number of recent cases, we’ve failed.

Don’t get us wrong; we accept that in many of the cases they are complicated. But there has got to be a better way to handle these matters than what we are seeing today.

It’s true that we cannot paint all the cases with one brush. But the common denominator in all these cases involves precious lives. Those lives have got to be the focus of our efforts, to prevent another one from being wasted.

The question is, what is going on in Samoa today? What could possibly drive a mother to do the unthinkable and abandon a precious life she had been carrying for nine months?

The reasons are endless. Cultural sensitivities? Shame if the baby was conceived out of wedlock? Stigma? Revenge? And the list goes on. There is no doubt that one of these reasons contributed to the case that is most fresh on our minds, the gruesome discovery of a dead newborn at Mulifanua last weekend.

As this piece was being compiled, the Police were reviewing video evidence in a bid to find answers in terms of the baby girl dumped next to a trash bin there.

It’s not the first case of a baby dumped at the wharf by the way. Several years ago, another newborn was found abandoned there. And like the current case, the baby was dead.

The shockwaves extend far more than just in Samoa. Thousands of miles away in Malaysia, that country’s Police arrested a Samoan woman last week in connection to another case where a newborn was dumped. On the front page of the newspaper you are reading, the Government has confirmed that it has been in contact with Malaysian authorities about the matter. We cannot confirm yet if the mother had travelled from Samoa to Malaysia to represent Samoa at an international forum being held there.

But that’s not all. Keep in mind that it wasn’t that long ago another baby was found floating at Lauli’i. Up until now, no one has come forward to claim responsibility for that precious life.

Foreigners could be forgiven for thinking that something is terribly amiss in the Samoan thinking when it comes to the issue.

Last week, Police Commissioner Fuiava Egon Keil made an extremely valid point when he spoke about the baby found at Lauli’i. Said the Commissioner:“These acts are against everything we believe in as a Christian nation. It is against our culture and let alone being parents.”

We could not agree more with the Commissioner. But this has been said before.

What we need to ask ourselves now is what can we do to avoid this from happening again. The truth is that Samoa being a Christian country has not stopped this from happening. And despite the fact we’d like to think our people’s thinking has evolved since we are in 2019, that again hasn’t been able to solve anything.

So where do we go from here? How do we begin to address a problem that has been around for as long as we can remember? Whatever the solution is, we have to be brutally honest with ourselves and we must be creative. We need to move with the times, and perhaps learn from what other countries are doing that is working.

Let’s face it; the issue of babies being dumped is not confined to Samoa. So let’s get away from this mentality that this is Samoan problem. It is a global problem and we need to take into account what other countries are doing that could help us.

For instance, in yesterday’s Samoa Observer, the Vice President of the National Council of Churches, Reverend Aisoli Iuli, called on the Government to consider a baby hatch or baby box programme.

“A place where mothers can bring babies, usually newborn, and abandon them anonymously in a safe place to be found and cared for, something has to be done,” said Reverend Aisoli. “It happens in other parts of the world and it is how we address it that matters.”

On page 12 of this edition of the paper, the Samoa Victim Support Group is offering a helpline to mothers who could be going through these challenges. The organisation has already had a case where a baby was dropped off anonymously at the Centre and she is doing well today.

At the Samoa Family Health Association (S.F.H.A.), they are encouraging the promotion of sex education and calling on mothers and teenage girls to seek counseling. All these are great ideas. But they are not the only ones.

At the end of the day, everyone should feel obligated to do their part. Babies don’t just produce themselves. The responsibility goes both ways for men and women. If anything, women need support because they are the ones who do most of the work when it comes to the pregnancy. The men should be held accountable too for their failure.

The point is that we cannot continue to just point the finger at women and scream that this is unchristian and un-Samoan. We need to work as a community to find tangible solutions so that we not only avoid these unwanted cases, we also encourage women and girls that where they find themselves in these undesirable circumstances, there is help available. What do you think?

Have a great Tuesday Samoa, God bless!

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