Kashmir Indepth

Neglect, isolation for children with disabilities in Kashmir

Sumaya Jan

Srinagar, July 2 (KINS): Dozens of babies with disabilities have been abandoned over the years and many were lying in hospitals for months in Kashmir.

An official at Lalla Ded Hospital Srinagar said there have been many cases when children with disabilities were abandoned by their parents.

“Last year, a one-month-old baby was left to dogs by his parents in a plastic bag.  He was found wrapped in a polythene bag in the backyards of the hospital. It came to light after an official had heard the newborn’s cries,” the official told news agency Kashmir Indepth News Service (KINS).

“He was administered anti-rabies injections. His condition improved days after he was treated here. He had disability but was later adopted by a childless couple,” the official said.

Keeping children in hospitals for longer is not good for their health, say health experts.

Similarly, when doctors at a hospital told a man from Shopian that his wife has given birth to a disabled male baby, he approached a gravedigger asking him to dig a grave for his “dead child”.

When the gravedigger placed the infant inside the grave, the baby screamed, which caught the attention of the locals, who found him alive.  The baby’s father told them he wanted to bury the infant alive as he was “very poor and cannot bear” the newly born baby’s treatment. Following which police registered a case.

“The infant was born with congenital disorder. He was suffering from Meningoencephalocele, a type of encephalocele, which is an abnormal sac of fluid, brain tissue, and meninges that extends through a defect in the skull,” a doctor said.

The abandoning of babies especially with disabilities seems a big challenge in Kashmir.  Take for instance, at the Lalladed maternity hospital, over 15 abandoned babies have been found inside the hospital premises in the past few years.

“There are always chances that a child may get infected if kept in hospital for longer. Every baby shall be taken care off in homes instead keeping them in hospitals for months, which is not good for their health,” says the doctor.

But there are many examples where people have adopted children with disabilities. Even three children with disabilities were adopted by one family in Srinagar.

One disabled child had congenital neurological disorder while the other was suffering from hypoxemia brain injury. The third child was also suffering from a severe neurological disorder.

“Poverty is the significant contributor to the increase in the number of orphans and abandoned babies,” the doctor said.

Stating that child is not at fault for mistakes committed by parents, he believes it was the responsibility of the government and the society alike to take care of them. “Many people don’t consider adopting children with disabilities because they believe it is a burden on them,” he added.(KINS)

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