Ministry sets up "baby abandonment" Taskforce

The Ministry of Health is establishing a Taskforce to address the issue of “baby abandonment” after the discovery of two dead babies. 

Minister of Health, Faimalotoa Kika Stowers, confirmed the progress that her Ministry is making in putting together the Taskforce and said the community should unite to address the issue.

“Now is not the time to point fingers, rather come together to address this mortifying and inhumane issue," she said in an interview with Samoa Observer. 

“Two newborn babies found dead in the most devastating way is not something the Ministry of Health will brush aside."

The gruesome discovery of two babies over a month – one a deceased baby boy found floating in on the water at Lauli'i and the other a baby girl dumped next to a trash bin at Mulifanua wharf – has triggered public criticism and calls for the establishment of a baby hatch program in Samoa. 

For the deceased infant discovered in waters off the coast of Lauli'i, an investigation by the village authorities concluded the baby was abandoned by a person who does not live in the village. 

The Minister said there has been consultations with the relevant ministries and organisations including the Police, Samoa Victim Support Group and the Ministry of Women Community and Social Development. 

“We need the village council so the chiefs can address this in the respective villages. We also need to the church so the Ministers can address this from their pulpit – we need all hands on deck," she said.

National issues such as domestic violence has galvanised the public and led to support from village chiefs and church ministers, with the Minister saying she expects the same level of support for this particular issue. 

“We can use the method to tackle this problem. These are our children we have to explore every opportunity available to us to address it.”

Faimalotoa said Samoa is a role model in the Pacific with its many achievements but the baby abandonment issue has tarnished the reputation of the country. 

“It makes it seem as if we are not a Christian country when in reality is we are God fearing and church-going people,” she said. 

The Minister also commended the appeal by Commissioner of Police Fuiavaili’ili Egon Keil, who asked that abandoned babies are dropped off at police stations, the hospital or the fire service without any questions asked. 

Putting aside her hat as a Cabinet Minister, she also made an appeal as a mother and a high chief. 

“There are numerous women that cannot conceive and they are willing to adopt children,” she said, while fighting back tears. 

"We are mothers, we are the sole protectors of our children, if you cannot take the baby, please drop them off to the hospital or the police station. Babies are gifts from God and if you cannot care for the baby for any reason – please don’t kill them by abandoning them."

Last month, the Ministry of Police laid to rest the baby boy found floating at sea at the Tafaigata Cemetery. The deceased baby was named Tautai, 

His funeral was held at the Seventh Day Adventist Church in Lalovaea and was organized as part of a collaboration between the Samoa Police Services and local resident, Fesilafa'i Aumaga. 

The Police Commissioner said the death of the infant was difficult for him as a Police officer and he expressed concern at the increase in cases of infant abandonment. 

"As a Police officer, this type of incident involving the death of Tautai, is very difficult to swallow or comprehend. It seems abandonment is on the rise in our small island nation, it is very concerning to law enforcement," he said. 

"However, it is said those who live in the hearts of others will never die, even the smallest of feet have the power of everlasting footprints, upon this world."

Vice President of the National Council of Churches and former President of the Methodist Church, Reverend Aisoli Iuli, has called for a national response to cases of baby abandonment. 

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