South Africa is bracing itself for a baby boom in March next year, nine months after it hosts the World Cup football tournament. Huge numbers of these children will be unplanned and end up abandoned, experts predict, because many of them will be born to prostitutes who don’t have the means to support them.
South Africa has the world’s highest number of people living with HIV and half its people live below the poverty line. Also, the recession has made one in four South Africans jobless. These factors have left people are struggling to provide for their families and prostitution is rife. Mothers who are prostitutes often have their babies, abandon them, and then go back to work.
In Johannesburg alone, it is estimated that 50 children are dumped each month and there have even been reports of babies in bin bags thrown onto roads, to be run over by cars. And when the World Cup finishes on Sunday, South Africa’s nine host cities will have entertained about 450,000 tourists, mostly men, from 32 countries. Even though sex work is illegal in South Africa, Orphanages in cities like Johannesburg and Durban are bracing themselves for a flood of abandoned babies, many conceived by women working as prostitutes during the football. “All we can do is prepare space for them,” said says Kate Allen, the director of three church-run orphanages in Johannesburg. “We are in crisis mode now and battling to find enough space. We’ve just taken out some cupboards in one of our bedrooms to make more room,” she told the Daily Mail. Her church is looking into building a children’s village, where the abandoned children can live in cottages, although this will cost about £400,000, and take years to do.
In Durban, South Africa’s largest city, already three babies are dumped every 48.“We have discovered that lots of babies, found in toilets and in plastic bags, are botched abortions,” said Michelle Potgieter, director of Durban’s Shepherd’s Keep orphanage.“Despicable people are advertising abortions for women who are as much as seven months pregnant. A mother takes a pill to induce early labour and thinks that she has aborted her foetus, but she hasn’t; she has given birth to a living, breathing baby, tied it up in a plastic bag and left it for dead.” “A tin of formula left with the child tells us that the mother has HIV,’ says Michelle, because breastfeeding is the usual in South Africa, because it is free. “You just know that this mother has had to leave her most precious possession because she’s dying. It’s so sad.”