Cases of infants being taken away from hospitals — in some cases by persons seeking to adopt a child — have occurred before. Such cases have taken place in Rawalpindi, Multan, Lahore and in other cities. What is disturbing, however, is that no effort has been made to get to the bottom of these cases and pin down the culprits — who in some cases are members of hospital staff. This is one of the factors that has led to the continuation of such incidents, which leave distraught families — and often when the victims are not found — with a sense of uncertainty that could last a lifetime.
The latest abduction has taken place at the federally-run National Institute for Child Health (NICH) in Karachi, where an eight-month-old baby girl was taken away from her nine-year old brother by awoman who offered to hold her while the boy fetched her a drink. The traumatised family has lodged an FIR. It remains to be seen how the police handle the case and if the child can be recovered. What is frightening is that this is the second incident of the same nature to take place at the NICH within a few months. In November last year, a newborn baby boy, being treated at the facility, had also been kidnapped. It is hard to believe that such events can take place without inside connivance. But certainly, along with an investigation, we also need better security measures at all hospitals and families need to be warned about the risks of leaving their babies unguarded. It also needs to be ensured that security guards do not allow infants to leave the premises without a proper proof of identity of the parents.
We can only hope that the NICH management will take the matter seriously. Had it done so in November, this latest tragedy may not have occurred. Perhaps, we also need to look at the desperate need people feel to ‘obtain’ children, possibly for adoption. A better mechanism to do so through legal means is required. But ensuring better security, of course, is the key measure. Abductions at hospitals must be stopped and every child taken to them must be kept safe so that these crimes can be controlled and punishments meted out.