In the early morning hours six weeks ago, a three-month-old baby girl was found at the doorstep of a Caldwell family. There was no birth certificate attached to the infant.
“My daughter opened the front door like she always does every morning and noticed a baby wrapped in a blanket, at our doorstep. We kept the child for a day and brought everything the baby would need like a tub and so on. The next day, we decided to take her to the Zone 7 Police Depot to inform them of our finding, but to our surprise, they took the baby from us and told us to go home. Since then we have not seen the baby,” the family added.
Besides a picture, there is no evidence of the child’s existence.
On August 2, at about 9:00am, blocks away from where the three-month infant was found, a one year-old child was found wandering around; everyone in the community claimed not to know the toddler.
“I found her this morning and walked around with her for about two hours hoping that someone would take notice of the child. No one came looking for her nor claimed to know the child, so I took her to the Zone 7
Police Depot as a missing child,” said Bintu, a market woman selling peanuts around Caldwell.
These two cases represent yet another challenge Liberia has to face in the aftermath of the deadly Ebola outbreak. The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is estimating that some 60,000 children born during the
Ebola outbreak have yet to be registered into existence.
According to UNICEF’s Liberian representative, Sheldon Yett, the closure of health facilities and limited health services during the Ebola outbreak has ‘halted Liberia’s progress in registering births in recent years.
“Children who have not been registered at birth officially don’t exist and without citizenship, they risk marginalization because they may be unable to access basic health and social services, obtain identity documents and will be in danger of being trafficked or illegally adopted,” he recently stated in a Yahoo article “Ebola disrupts Liberia birth records, poses trafficking threat-UN”
Online statistics show that in December 2013 the rate of birth registration in Liberia increased 25 percent from four percent in 2007.
The number of birth registrations fell to 48,000 in 2014 from 79,000 in 2013.
Ma Jenneh, a midwife who said she delivered more than twenty of the unregistered babies during the Ebola outbreak shared her interesting experience:
A poverty-stricken and ailing woman claimed that she lost all her earnings after her cook-shop business collapsed months before the Ebola outbreak. So when Ma Jenneh had the opportunity of a lifetime to make a little extra money, despite its risk, she jumped to the task.
“A nurse who normally delivered babies in the Caldwell vicinity before and during the Ebola outbreak fell ill to EVD. And because many pregnant women in my community at the time were young, I felt like I had to help them to give birth,” she added, “There was no one around to deliver babies, so I had to take her place. Though I haven’t delivered babies in almost nine years, I had to help.”
According to a story that described both sad and happy endings, Ma Jenneh said that out of the twenty babies delivered in her care, only eight survived.
“First of all most of the mothers never had a hospital visit and came to deliver stillbirth babies; babies who were missing this and that and there was a case where the mother bled too much and I had to leave her alone until she pushed by herself,” she said.
When asked if there were any mortality amongst the young mothers, she replied: “Yes there were. Some of the babies were taken home by relatives after the mother didn’t make it.”
Meanwhile, according to the Government of Liberia and UNICEF they are working towards a strategic plan that will straighten the birth registration of some 60,000 children in Liberia.
“There will be a nationwide campaign later this year to reach all children not registered since 2014,” they said.
The unidentified infant that was dropped off six weeks ago during the misty morning hours in Caldwell is no where to be found, but with the help of UNICEF and the Liberian government, she will have an opportunity to one day have a name.
“I’ll be happy if she is accounted for by the government, maybe then we will be able to know who this mysterious baby is that was dropped off in front of our house so many mornings ago,” the Caldwell family stated.