That hatch gives desperate mothers who cant' look after their babies somewhere safe to leave them, rather than dumping them in rubbish bins or abandoning them in toilets. Mothers just put their babies, usually newborn, inside and leave them. Once the baby is inside, weight sensors set off an alarm, alerting carers at the orphanage. "Some of the babies we get through the bin are healthy but others are not so lucky. Some are dehydrated, malnourished and underweight and we have to nurse them back to health," said staff member, Angela Kizobokamba. The church's pastor, Cheryl Allen, had the baby hatch installed in 1999, after she saw newborns being left by their mothers to die in toilets, rubbish bins, or out in the bush.
South Africa is home to the highest number of people living with HIV in the world, and half its people live below the poverty line. Both factors make abandoned newborns shockingly normal. Each month about 50 children are dumped just in Johannesburg, and there have even been cases of babies in bin bags being thrown out onto the road to be run over by cars.
Although the orphanage has been criticised for its baby hatch, it says at least it provides a safe place for mothers to leave their babies. As soon as they arrive there, the abandoned babies are given medical checks and in time, the orphanage tries to get them adopted by families.
"We've seen an increase in the number of children being abandoned,” said Kate Allen, the pastor’s daughter-in-law and director of the church’s three orphanages. “When we started, we got an average of four children per month but now we receive up to 16 children," she told The Daily Mail.
She puts the rise in abandoned babies down o the economic downturn, which has left one in four South Africans jobless. ‘People are struggling to provide for their families and there is a lot of prostitution. Mothers who are prostitutes will have their babies, abandon them, and then go back to work.'