China's unwanted babies once mostly girls, now mostly sick, disabled
By Li Hui and Ben Blanchard
TIANJIN, China (Reuters) - Fangfang was just a few days old when she was abandoned on a near freezing New Year's Day in north China.
She was relatively lucky. Unlike the many who are found dumped in train stations or toilets, her family left her at a safe, warm shelter.
Dozens of babies have been secretly dropped off at "baby safety islands", or "baby hatches", set up since late last year under a scheme aimed at protecting unwanted offspring.
"We need to build these islands to protect children from further injury," said Zhang Min, head of a government-run orphanage in the northern coastal city of Tianjin where Fangfang was found.
The babies there are dropped off in a cozy room with pink walls, a cradle and an incubator. Fangfang was left in a handbag on the floor.
Chinese media frequently report harrowing tales of babies being abandoned, a problem attributed to young mothers unaware they are pregnant, the birth of an unwanted girl in a society which puts greater value on boys or China's strict family planning rules.
In one such case, a baby was found in a dumpster on the outskirts of Beijing. He didn't survive. In another, firemen in eastern China rescued an abandoned newborn boy from a sewage pipe.
Chinese orphanages have seen a falling number of abandoned children since 2005, but officials estimate some 10,000 unwanted children are still received each year. An unknown number of abandoned babies are also adopted informally. Continued...