MUSCAT // Maryam Al Ajmi heard the familiar muffled cry from her bedroom window and knew at once that another baby had been left on the doorstep of the orphanage.
It was just after 5 o’clock in the morning, a few minutes after the call to prayer – the most common time for babies to be “dropped” on the doorstep of the orphanage in Muscat.
She found a bundle wrapped in cashmere blanket, picked it up lo
vingly and walked inside.
“We can tell that the mother is from a wealthy family because of the quality of the blanket.”
Al Jameel is one of eight orphanages in the country, most of them managed and funded by the government.
The number of abandoned infants left in the hospitals or in orphanages in the Sultanate rose 11 per cent in 2016 to 54 compared to a year earlier. Social workers say that about 75 per cent of the babies are fostered by families before they reach the age of 8 months.
“We strictly supervise their welfare – from their food, accommodation, play areas, education to the clothes they wear – while they are in the orphanage.”
Most of the babies are abandoned by unwedded mothers under pressure from their families. But some are discarded by housemaids when they get pregnant, after having an affair with their boyfriends or even their sponsors.
“These are the two main reasons, apart from a few babies who are deformed. We can’t always tell under what circumstances these babies end up in orphanages but sometimes we know from neighbours or friends of the mothers,” said Asia Al Hallabi, another social worker.
She added that information on how children are abandoned is difficult to come by.
Individual orphanages and hospitals have their own privacy policies about whether to release information to the public about abandoned babies.
There are no statistics on the total number of children who have been fostered but those who are still in orphanages are estimated to be around 3,500 nationwide, according to Ms Al Hallabi.
“The sponsors, usually the wife, come back to us to demand their fees back when housemaids get pregnant. Then follows the argument that nobody can win when the housemaid claims the father of the unborn child is her boss,” Kareem Hassan, a manager of one of the agencies told The National.
To encourage foster families to take in orphans, the government pays a monthly allowance of 100 rials (Dh950).
All orphans get Omani citizenship regardless of their mothers’ nationalities. They also get free scholarships when they finish secondary school and automatic jobs when they graduate.
Source : The National