Havens of hope open their arms to for­saken in­fants

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - NATION | DIGEST - By HE DAN in Bei­jing and CANG WEI in Nan­jing

It took only an hour for the silent alarm to be trig­gered af­ter Nan­jing Chil­dren’s Wel­fare In­sti­tu­tion opened its “safe haven” for aban­doned ba­bies on Tues­day.

Jin Jiangy­ing, the nurse on duty, rushed to the small but se­cure build­ing and found a new­born boy wrapped in a col­or­ful blan­ket.

He had been left in a crib pro­vided at the haven along with feed­ing bot­tles, milk pow­der, di­a­pers and cloth­ing.

“He was asleep when I ar­rived. His belly looked swollen and he’s had a fever since Wed­nes­day morn­ing,” Jin said.

Med­i­cal work­ers at the in­sti­tu­tion said the boy was less than 7 days old. He was sent to Nan­jing Chil­dren’s Hos­pi­tal.

Had he been aban­doned out­side in the win­ter cold, like many chil­dren in the past, Jin said there was a good chance the in­fant may not have sur­vived.

Guards at the in­sti­tu­tion were alerted by an in­frared sen­sor, which trig­gers an alarm af­ter three min­utes, al­low­ing time for the per­son aban­don­ing a child to leave.

The 5- square- me­ter safe haven, which cost 70,000 yuan ($11,450) to build, has an in­cu­ba­tor, a crib, bed­ding and an air con­di­tioner. How­ever, there are no sur­veil­lance cam­eras.

Xie Jun, di­rec­tor of nurs­ing at the in­sti­tute in the pro­vin­cial cap­i­tal of Jiangsu, said, “Ev­ery year, more than 160 chil­dren are aban­doned out­side the front door.”

The prov­ince plans to open a sec­ond safe haven in Xuzhou next year.

Nine­teen prov­inces have built, or plan to build, safe havens for aban­doned chil­dren, said Li Bo, di­rec­tor of the China Center for Chil­dren’s Wel­fare and Adop­tion, the or­ga­ni­za­tion push­ing the safe haven con­cept.

Each prov­ince should set up one or two safe havens at child wel­fare cen­ters in its cap­i­tal or other large cities be­fore the end of next year, he said.

Dou Yu­pei, vice-min­is­ter of civil af­fairs, said at a news con­fer­ence that safe havens fol­low the prin­ci­ple of “life first, and give pri­or­ity to chil­dren’s rights”.

Un­der Chi­nese law, those who aban­don de­pen­dents face a prison sen­tence of up to five years.

“In China, aban­don­ing chil­dren is il­le­gal and im­moral. There­fore, par­ents or oth­ers choose to leave ba­bies se­cretly at places that are hard to find.” Dou said. “Be­cause of this, some ba­bies die be­fore they are found, or the con­di­tions of some sick ba­bies worsen.” Con­tact the writ­ers at hedan@ chi­nadaily.com.cn and cang­wei@chi­nadaily.com.cn

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