Laos Grapples with Surge in Abandoned Infants Amid Economic Turmoil

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Laos Grapples with Surge in Abandoned Infants Amid Economic Turmoil
FILE: this image is used only for representational purpose (photo: Pexels)

Laos is grappling with a concerning rise in baby abandonment cases, with two incidents reported this month igniting public outrage and shedding light on the post-Covid challenges and the growing economic crisis.

The first case unfolded at 10:45 pm on 6 December when an abandoned baby was found concealed in a bag hanging from a vehicle’s side view mirror in the Mahosot Hospital parking lot. The vehicle owner, reacting swiftly, rushed the infant to the hospital for immediate medical attention and a basic check.

Authorities have yet to ascertain the identity of the child’s parents. However, Douangkham Phommachan, Chief of the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at Mahosot Hospital, revealed that there are individuals expressing interest in adopting the child. The prospective adopters have offered to cover medical expenses, but stringent procedures involving the police and anti-human trafficking sectors are in place to prevent illicit activities.

While not a frequent occurrence at Mahosot Hospital, cases of child abandonment leading to adoption have been on the rise. Dr. Douangkham Phommachan pointed out that financial constraints often prompt parents, particularly teenagers, to make the difficult decision of giving up their children for adoption.

“I would say it’s the teenagers, especially those who love to hang out, party, whatever you call it. The thing is, they usually get so carried away with the fun that they forget to think about the consequences of their actions, and when the responsibility falls on them, they either face it or run away from it,” he said.

Dr. Douangkham highlighted that some cases go unnoticed as individuals who find abandoned babies choose to adopt them privately, bypassing legal procedures. He observed a recent uptick in such incidents, attributing it to the reopening of entertainment venues post-Covid, facilitating social gatherings among teenagers.

The second in December involved the discovery of a newborn on the streets of Xaythany on 12 December. The infant was promptly transported to Hospital 150 for a medical evaluation, but the identity of the adoptive parents remains unknown. The child is now reported to be in a safe condition.

The two consecutive cases of baby abandonment have triggered a wave of criticism on social media, with online users expressing their discontent and condemning what they perceive as irresponsible parenting. Concerned voices have emphasized the importance of contraception and responsible decision-making.

The troubling surge in baby abandonment cases in Laos has brought attention to the complex challenges faced by young parents, often resulting in difficult decisions and, at times, societal backlash. As authorities work to navigate these issues, public discourse continues to emphasize the need for responsible parenting and increased awareness about contraception.

Xieng Khouang is addressing the increasing issue of child abandonment by implementing initiatives to educate its residents on reproductive health and contraception. This effort aims to minimize misunderstandings among teenagers, decrease maternal mortality rates, and promote family planning. The province has witnessed a rise in the establishment of mother and child hospitals, reflecting a growing interest among teenagers in the field of reproductive health.