While in the salon making my hair I scrolled through messages on the Advocacy for family planning WhatsApp group page I belong to and then came across this video – (Nigeria Beggar Abandon 3 Babies) that someone had posted. My mouth was agape all through while I watched the story unfold. Here was a woman begging on one of the bridges in Lagos with three babies wearing identical caps. One would have thought they were triplets and most people will be moved to give this “poor woman”, money to care for her “suffering innocent children”. Guess what…these babies were not triplets and she was not their mother either. How did she get these babies? Their mothers hire them out to this “beggar woman” every day and in return get some change at the end of the day. You need to have seen these babies crying their hearts out wrapped in pieces of cloths lying on the ground. The mother heart in me went out to them and then this anger against their mother and the woman using them for alms arose in me.
Some women should simply not be mothers!!! How could they be that heartless all in the name of making some money? I hear that they make some good money as much as N10, 000, N15, 000. Their foolish mothers get like N1, 500 at the end of the day for exposing their child to the elements and weather (come rain, come the sunshine). The particular “woman beggar” in the video ran away when authorities tried to question her but thankfully she was caught. Ask me what happened after that? I believe these babies should have been taken over by the social welfare and then these women should be arrested and prosecuted! How far they went with this I don’t know.
The sad thing was that when I checked Google to find out more about this story I discovered that the act of hiring babies to beg alms has been a practice for some years now. This is a criminal offence. There was a time the Lagos government clamped down on people doing this but they found means of escaping and moving to new places to continue this inhuman act. It is now known as baby trafficking, using babies as slaves to make money! What is our world becoming?
One wonders why these women engage in this act. Is it because of poverty or Laziness? Yes, we can say poverty but seriously hiring your baby out to be used for alms begging?! I think laziness is also part of it and of course the problem of giving birth to too many children that they cannot cater for. A Punch newspaper story shared the story of cash- hungry mothers who loan out their babies for begging. One of such women came to Lagos in search of a good life with her four children from Ibadan. She then had another baby whom she rents out to a “woman beggar” every day. This woman works at as a food vendor and earns N300 while also collecting N1, 500 daily pay for hiring her baby out. The annoying thing is that this baby is given out at 5 am and returned at 7 pm. Come on this is crazy! (Forgive my language). It is so unfair.
I don’t want to just write about this story like every other disturbing societal issue; we need to do something about this.
Every one of us has a part to play in educating people that there are other things they can do to make money; that they can control the number of children they give birth to through the use of modern family planning(FP) methods.
There are various methods that can be used. Short FP methods (Condom, injectable for 2 – 3 months) and long lasting methods (Implants 3 – 5years, IUDs and so on; permanent methods – Tubal Ligation and Vasectomy). These are available at Primary Health centers at affordable prices)
What Should/Can be Done:
1) Well-meaning individuals, organizations can invest in establishing shelter homes and facilities to house such babies or less-privileged mothers. This caters for their housing need. Most importantly skills acquisition programs should be organized and a start-up money given to empower these women.
If you are rich perhaps instead of sharing money on the streets in bales wasting resources engage in such enduring philanthropic activity.
2) And seriously, our government need to step up in putting in place policies that can protect such children and punish their mean mothers. And perhaps from my social work point of view empower these women so that they can stop begging on the streets or hiring their children out as tools for alms begging.
If we continue to ignore:
• Many babies will die as a result because of being starved of proper nutrients and getting exposed to diseases that kill infants. They will end up increasing the statistics of infant mortality rate (IMR) in Nigeria. According to WHO 2013 data, infant mortality rate in Nigeria stands at 100 children per 1000 live births. The latest data for 2015 according to world Bank development indicators from recognized sources shows IMR for Nigeria at 69.4 per 1000 live births. Still very high, every child, every life counts.
• We will also be raising adults who become hard and callous. If they do survive they become street wise and engage in all kinds of vices. They end up becoming problems to us all as they will grow up feeling cheated.
• No one knows what the future holds for a child. A lot of great things are possible. We will be losing individuals who are probably endowed with answers to our world’s problems.
Adebisi Adetunji (C)