Unsafe abandonment, top causes of children death in SAA

A newborn female infant abandoned near the maternity ward (Image for Representation)

Unsafe abandonment -- including instances of infants found left in the open -- diarrhoea and acute respiratory infections are among the leading causes of death of 776 children in specialised adoption agencies across India over the last three years, government agency CARA has said.

Other reasons for the deaths of the children in the age group of 0-6 in SAAs, run both by state governments and NGOs, are pre-term birth complications and congenital anomalies, the Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA) said in response to an RTI query by PTI.

In July this year, Women and Child Development Minister Smriti Irani said in response to a question in the Lok Sabha that 776 children had died over the last three years in specialised adoption agencies (SAAs).

According to data given in reply to PTI's RTI query, of the 434 SAAs, 355 are run by NGOs and 79 by governments in various states.

The deaths were reported from 44 government-run SAAs run and 283 SAAs run by the NGOs, the CARA said.

According to an official, the SAAs have 7,074 children, some who have been orphaned or abandoned and some who have families but placed in the care of the adoption institutes.

The deaths would therefore account for 10 per cent of the total number of children in the institutions.

The highest, 124 children deaths, at the SAAs between April 1, 2016 to July 8 this year were reported from Uttar Pradesh followed by Bihar at 107 and Maharashtra at 81, according to the RTI reply.

In many cases, a senior official said, the children were brought to the SAAs in such a tenuous health condition that their chances of survival were very bleak.

"Even if they were brought to the agency in time, they were extremely vulnerable to diseases and could not survive despite treatment," the official said.

A caregiver at an specialised adoption agency in central Delhi added that they have received babies who were found after 48 hours of being abandoned.

Once, he said, a two-day-old child was found in a pool of water after a long night of rain in the city.

"By the time he was brought in, he had developed severe pneumonia and passed away in a couple of hours," he said.

Sunitha Krishnan, a child rights activist, said most children are malnourished when they are brought to these institutions.

"In some cases, there also a lack of specialised care due to several reasons, including not enough caretakers at these institutions," she said.

Responding to a question on what action has been taken by the government in the matter, the CARA said all necessary action as stipulated was taken in all the above reported cases.

"The State Adoption Resource Agency shall function as the executive arm of the state government for promotion, facilitation, monitoring and regulation of the adoption programme in the state, and its functions shall include inspection and monitoring adoption programme and activities of all Specialized Adoption Agencies within its jurisdiction," the reply said.

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