Chennai, Tamil Nadu, September 8, 2017:Hospitals in India are starting to tag newborns, mothers, and medics as well as installing extra security cameras and educating staff to spot baby thieves amid fears that baby trafficking is becoming an organized crime nationwide.
Officials said this was part of a drive starting at government hospitals in southern Tamil Nadu state to ensure nurses, doctors and visitors know of the threat of babies being stolen from maternity wards and babies being sold illegally for adoption that is baby trafficking.
At the Rajaji government hospital in Madurai, the first in Tamil Nadu to introduce the program, laser beams at exit points trigger alarms if untagged adults take babies out in order to curb baby trafficking.
“We just want to prevent the theft of babies,” N.K. Mahalakshmi, the doctor in charge of laser tagging at the hospital, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. “It is not fool proof but a deterrent. … Our hospital staff has also been told to be extra vigilant.”
Traffickers, officials sometimes collude
Campaigners have raised concerns that traffickers are often colluding with officials to steal babies from maternity wards and illegally sell them for adoption which is baby trafficking.
Mumbai police arrested a gang for convincing single mothers to sell their babies last year, while in West Bengal police found newborns being stolen from mothers in medical clinics after staff told them that their babies were stillborn.
Dev Ananth, a child protection officer in Tirunelveli district, said the state government is investigating several cases where hospital staff persuaded mothers to sell their babies for about 10,000 Indian rupees ($156).
Tirunelveli district will put posters up in every hospital, alerting pregnant women, families, and staff to the dangers of baby trafficking in overcrowded corridors.
“Many don’t see it as a trafficking issue,” he said.
“We are going to train hospital staff to identify potential cases, including what to do if a baby is abandoned at birth. At present, the do’s and don’ts are not clear.”
No official data on baby trafficking
There is no official data on the number of babies stolen from hospitals in Tamil Nadu, but almost 180,000 children were born in government facilities in 2016, statistics show.
More than four out of 10 of human trafficking cases in India in 2015 involved children being bought, sold and exploited as modern-day slaves, according to crime figures.
“Public hospitals are vulnerable spaces where there are no effective ways to monitor access to newborn babies,” said Paul Sunder Singh of the children’s charity Karunalaya. (VOA)
Deliberate self harm (DSH), also known as self injury is the act of intentionally inflicting damage to the body
It has become a common practice among children and teenagers across the globe
DSH among teenagers can be attributed to lifestyle and technology changes, peer pressure and lack of support
Australia, September 1, 2017: Dr. Rajeev Nagpal expresses his opinion on the dangerous practice of self-harm increasingly affecting children and young adults across the world.
What is Deliberate Self-Harm (DSH)?
Self-harm is described as an expression of situational crisis or personal distress which leads to harming oneself. NICE clinical guidelines from the UK have defined it as self-poisoning or injury, irrespective of the apparent purpose of the act.
Deliberate Self Harm (DSH) is not a clinical condition but a response to a stressful situation in the life of a young child or adolescent. It can occur after long term stress like abuse or domestic violence or after an acute single event like the loss of a near one or failure in examinations. It is primarily a coping mechanism in which they try to release tension by trying to self-harm.
Already there are reports of Indian children losing their life after playing games like the blue whale challenge on the internet. It is time for the general population, including the parents of young children to understand the issues of this very complex condition called deliberate self-harm.
Public Health Issue
In recent years DSH has become a major public health issue in most developed countries. However, although less reported, this problem is a major under-recognized epidemic in low and middle –income countries like India, Nepal.
According to a retrospective study conducted at the Emergency department of CMC, Vellore, India from Jan 2011 to Dec 2013, among the total 1228 patients who were admitted, consumption of pesticides was the most common cause of DSH in men. Consumption of plant poisoning and drug overdose was more common in women.The study involved all population, therefore, the actual number of pediatric population was difficult to ascertain.
Other international studies have also revealed that adolescents, who experienced anxiety or low mood, were six times more at risk of self-harm in young adulthood compared to those without depression or anxiety disorders.
Approximately a million lives are lost to suicide annually, worldwide.
Deliberate self-harm (DSH) is the single most important risk factor for suicide and is associated with huge health service resource utilization. Deliberate self-poisoning in children continues to remain a significant part of the workload of emergency departments, especially in adolescents, even though fewer children need admission now as compared with earlier decades.
Presentation of DSH
Many young adults find it difficult to express their feelings. Some examples of self-harm behavior are:
Self-cutting or scratching
Burning or scalding
Poisoning with drugs like paracetamol, anti-depressants
Relatively little information is available about the characteristics and long-term outcome of children and adolescents aged under 15 years who present to general hospitals because of deliberate self-harm (DSH).
Depressive disorders in pediatrics fall in ranges from mood changes in response to persistent mood change accompanied by suicidal ideation or intent.
The difficulties faced by adolescents are getting more complex with lifestyle and technology changes globally. Peer pressure along with family expectations can aggravate this sense of worthlessness.
Lack of support networks can lead them to opt for impulsive self-harm mechanisms like poisoning. Intentional overdose to commonly implicated drugs like Paracetamol in the UK, or organo- phosphorous compounds in Nepal and is a cause of grave concern.
How to Deal with this Issue
As young children are unable to deal very well with emotional stresses, they will need a supportive team to help them in understanding their feelings and the possible outcomes from them.
This requires a multidisciplinary team approach.
Understanding the issues by holding awareness sessions of this condition in schools and other organizations
Creating referral pathways that all school staff are aware of
Confidential telephone lines /NGOs dealing with mental health of adolescent’s
Government policies and procedures for treatment of acute cases in Accident and Emergency departments
Provision of developing CAMHS(Child and adolescent mental health services ) like services at state level in Indian government hospitals.
Increased research particularly in pediatrics and adolescent’s needs to be conducted at state and national level.
DSH is an under-recognized, major public health problem in low and middle-income countries. National level medical protocols and increasing the awareness amongst the public and agencies dealing with such conditions can be the first step in saving millions of lives from the untimely death of the most vulnerable yet productive younger sections of the society.
Dr. Rajeev Nagpal is a Pediatrician and MHID (Masters OF Health and International Development-Flinders University, Adelaide, Australia)
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