Abandonment or adoption: Pandemic forces mothers to make life-changing decisions

As the hardship of surviving the impact of COVID-19 becomes an increasing struggle, some mothers are resorting to the desperate measure of abandoning or giving up their babies for adoption to survive.

One of the abandoned babies being looked after at the Door of Hope. Picture: Abigail Javier/Eyewitness News

JOHANNESBURG - The socioeconomic impact of COVID-19 on South Africans continues to be felt, with many families having to make extraordinary sacrifices.

One of these is mothers who have had to give up their babies for adoption in order to alleviate the burden of abject poverty.

According to the International Labour Organisation, the pandemic has hit women’s labour market opportunities the hardest in at least 55 countries.

Eyewitness News spoke to a mother who was on the verge of giving up her child in a desperate bid to survive.

"I lost my job last month. It was very difficult for me. I have this little one to feed."

The six-month-old baby girl presses her face against her mother's while she kisses her softly on her cheek.

This tender moment is a sight to behold and it's hard to believe that just last month, the 33-year-old mother was almost out of options.

She had considered giving her baby up for adoption so that they could both have a shot at surviving the pandemic.

The mother came to Gauteng from the Eastern Cape last month, leaving her other child, a 10-year-old son, with a neighbour after she lost her job.

When she arrived in Johannesburg, she turned to the Door of Hope, a charity organisation with branches in Hillbrow and Glenvista, which offers adoption services and other care facilities.

Door of Hope made sure that both mom and baby were not separated.

"It's very difficult, I used to cry each and every day. I don't know what to do, I don't know where to get help. I don't want my child to be adopted."

The social worker who helped them, Basani Maluleke, described the heart-wrenching decisions that mothers were often forced to make.

"To me, as a mother, it's so painful just to watch that happening. You go to bed with that pain thinking of them. What can I do to help them?"

WATCH: A crying shame: Rise in abandonment of babies during COVID-19

The National Adoption Coalition said that many mothers had been forced to make life-changing decisions due to financial stress brought on by COVID-19.

According to the National Child Protection Register, 100 children have been abandoned around the country since April last year, shortly after the lockdown was enforced.

At the Door of Hope, newborn babies to months-old infants are being cared for by social workers and volunteers.

Many were dropped off in baby boxes - these are specially designed for mothers to leave their children so that the NGO can take them in.

"What motivated me to seek help was for my child to have a better future, a better life and not struggle like I am now."

This mother has been unemployed for two years and because of COVID-19, the odds were even more stacked against her.

She made the painful decision to leave her newborn baby in the Door of Hope's baby box.

"A lot of people are being retrenched from work, so imagine a person who hasn’t been working for two years... Finding work is very difficult."

ADOPTION BLESSING

This woman recently adopted a baby.

"If it wasn't for them, my life wouldn't be what it is today. We are parents today because of the Door of Hope and the baby box. She is the best thing that happened to me."

Many women who seek help from NGOs and baby homes are desperate for the babies to have a better life, even more so now with the financial ripple effect of COVID-19 on the poor.

COVID-19 has had a severe impact on those who were already struggling to make ends meet. According to the International Labour Organisation, nearly 30 million women above the age of 29 lost their jobs between the last quarter of 2019 and the second quarter of 2020 around the world.

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