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Monday 11 November 2019
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Baby in the Beetham

Not even the most inventive horror novelist could have devised something so grisly: the discovery of a new-born baby, apparently born healthy and then dumped like a piece of household rubbish in the Beetham Landfill.

Who knows what great things Baby Jane Doe could have achieved. Was she someone who could have risen up amid her circumstances to become prime minister? Maybe a concert pianist? A high-ranking CEO? A mother? A sister? A friend? We will never know.

We condemn in the strongest possible terms this murder. According to forensic pathologist Dr Valery Alexandrov, the child was born alive. How she came to be deposited at the dump is the mystery law enforcement authorities will have to unravel with haste. As a society, we cannot condone this act, an act of complete barbarity.

It is essential that members of the public come forward with any information they might have in relation to this matter. This includes people who may have been in the vicinity of the dump, as well as others who have had quiet, but legitimate, cause for suspicion in communities.

We urge all to heed the call of the police to come forward with any information they may have as to the whereabouts of the parents and any other people who may have been involved. They must be apprehended if only because such people may themselves be at risk and might also pose a danger to others given the quality of the act they have committed.

Though the custody chain of the body is yet to be established, a key matter that calls for greater scrutiny is the level of security at the dump.

There have long been concerns about unauthorised access to the Beetham Landfill by people living in the environs and elsewhere. This access is a public health hazard as well as a national security matter.

It is clear there are systems in place at the Beetham to ensure it remains a heavily controlled area. However, are those systems good enough? The regularity of fires at the dump over successive administrations has been a clear symptom of the need for greater controls.

The Ministry of National Security as well as local government authorities must regularly conduct reviews of arrangements to ensure best practices are always enacted. However, the matter goes well beyond the Beetham.

This child was born to a mother and a father who must have come from a community. We can only speculate as to the circumstances of the birth at this stage. Suffice it to say all sorts of issues may have been involved, ranging from economic to mental.

None of these factors are in any way an excuse for what has taken place. Yet, we as a society cannot see incidents like this one and turn a blind eye. We have to do better.

A general checklist should include a careful examination of the quality of facilities available to mothers. Is adequate counselling available at our hospitals? Are there enough resources in place to identify at-risk patients? How aware are mothers of postpartum depression? Are we treating mental health on the same footing as physical well-being?

A look at some of the country’s major public health facilities provides worrying signs. All over the country, at health facilities all over the land, ranging from general hospitals to health centres, there is a lack of emphasis on what should matter most: service. Healthcare is not just needles and pills and surgeries and prescriptions. It is an engagement with the fullness of the human being, the sacred soul housed within a fragile body.

We call on people with information to come forward, and for the State to keep an eye on the need to provide better support to mothers. But most of all, let there be justice for Baby Jane Doe.

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