UN criticism baby boxes
UN criticism baby boxes,The Czech Republic's first ever baby box sits on the outside wall of a dilapidated Hapsburg-era building at the private GynCentrum gynaecological clinic in Hloubetin, on Prague's eastern side.
The facility has been placed in a secluded spot to enable mothers to place babies inside without being seen. Leaflets in Czech, Russian and English have been left inside with phone numbers offering help to any mother who changes her mind about abandoning her child.
As soon as a child is left an alarm sounds inside the clinic to alert nurses. The baby is then collected in a dispenser on the other side of the wall and taken into care.
Seventeen babies have been left in the GynCentrum box since it opened in 2005, said Lenka Benediktova, a matron at the clinic.
It is one of 50 such facilities placed across the country by the Foundation For Abandoned Children (Statim), a private NGO run by Ludvik Hess, a father of 20 children, eight biological and the rest adopted, who calls himself a poet and entrepreneur and says he acts from humanitarian motivations.
Each box costs £32,000, and Statim says it has raised money to pay for them from wealthy entrepreneurs and companies, including one of the Czech Republic's biggest banks, Komercni.
Thanks to the baby boxes, Statim says, 75 babies have been saved.
Support in the Czech Republic is not universal. Some public sector hospitals, including the biggest in Prague, have refused to install the devices, and some lawyers, judges and children's groups remain critical.
Emil Machalek, Statim's auditor, said the boxes were necessary to help poor single mothers in an often desperate situation, and to quickly provide homes for unwanted babies through adoption. The goal, he said, was to have 70 box facilities, covering all districts in the country.
"These boxes are needed because we have a big problem with abandoned children," said Machalek, who said the idea was based on a practice used in ancient Roman times. "Before [the boxes existed] many children were put into special institutions and it wasn't a good life for them. Now we can find new parents for the children placed in baby boxes. It quickens the adoption process, which is very slow in our country."
Zuzana Baudysova, director of Our Child Foundation, a Czech children's charity which backs the initiative, said many unwanted babies were born to mothers from outside the nation. "A lot of them are not Czech but are … from Balkan countries, Albania or Romania.There are some who are migrants from Africa to Europe and want to end up in northern countries such as Norway, Finland or even Britain, where there is social provision. I have no doubt that if the boxes did not exist some of these babies would end up dumped in the rubbish."
Monika Simunkova, human rights commissioner for the republic, who represented the country at a session of the UN committee for the rights of the child when it criticised the baby boxes, said the Czech scheme was misunderstood. "They were emphasising the rights of children to know their biological origins. But the Czech Republic thinks the first thing should be the child's right to life."