S’wak intensifies efforts to achieve net zero underage pregnancies as recent baby dumping case brings total for 2023 to 4

Fatimah (right) points at the number of participants since 2016 in the Sexual Education Awareness and Advocacy (KAPS) programme during a press conference on the baby dumping issue held at the Baitul Makmur II, Petra Jaya in Kuching today (Dec 4, 2023).

By Ashley Sim

KUCHING, Dec 4: Sarawak is ramping up its efforts to achieve net zero cases of underage pregnancies and abandoned babies, following the recent baby dumping incident involving an underage girl which marks the fourth such case recorded here in 2023.

It was reported on Nov 29 that an abandoned newborn with umbilical cord still attached was discovered in a housing area in Bandar Baru Semariang here and was taken to Sarawak General Hospital for further examination. Kuching District Police Chief ACP Ahsmon Bajah confirmed that the infant is alive and in good health.

Meanwhile, on Nov 30, police arrested a 14-year-old girl suspected of to be the baby’s mother. In connection with the case, an 18-year-old boy was also arrested.

According to Sarawak Minister for Women, Childhood, and Community Wellbeing Development (KPWK) Dato Sri Fatimah Abdullah, the teen mother is still a child herself and cannot be held to adult standards by assuming she should have known the consequences of her actions.

“Statistically, the latest case is the fourth case of abandoned babies in 2023. There were six reported cases last year and 10 in 2021. Meanwhile, Sarawak had 1,760 teen pregnancies as of October this year, compared to 1,536 cases the whole of last year,” she told reporters during a press conference on baby dumping held today at the Baitul Makmur II building, Petra Jaya here.

She said that besides increasing the number of awareness and preventive programmes carried out such as the Sexual Education Awareness and Advocacy (KAPS) programme in secondary schools, especially in high-risk areas, and Randau Pembangunan Social in all divisions by the ministry’s Social Development Council (MPS), her ministry also reached out to pregnant girls through its one-stop teenage pregnancy centre to provide help and support.

“It is our hope that given proper medical care, as well as emotional and mental health care, these young mothers can recover well, and map their future with faith and hope. To avoid babies being abandoned, we also encourage the provision of baby hatches in specialist and private hospitals.”

Furthermore, Fatimah disclosed that the Taman Sri Puteri facility in Kuching, operated by the Welfare Department, offers a secure environment for pregnant girls to receive proper care until they deliver their babies.

“I urge parents and carers of these young girls to reach out to the Jabatan Kebajikan Masyarakat (office) near you, Jabatan Wanita dan Keluarga Sarawak, or seek help from NGOs, for assistance and guidance.

“However, we do recognise the challenges isolated and frightened young mothers’ face in accessing help.

“I therefore ask all in society to find a place in our hearts for them and show caring concern.” she added. — DayakDaily