Tugamena-Omwa Immanuel still recalls vividly when she made a grim discovery five years ago. Twenty-six at the time, Immanuel was sent on an errand to go pay the municipal bill when she heard a mysterious cry - just 40 metres away from her home at Tsumeb.
“It was 10am and as I walked past some household refuse, I heard a strange cry. It sounded like a baby and a cat at the same time. Being the risktaker that I am, I moved closer to listen and inspect. I saw a piece of a box covering a tied plastic bag. Very frightened, I removed the box and discovered it was a baby,” she recounted, still sounding horrified.
According to Immanuel, the newborn baby was wrapped in a red skirt in a tied-up plastic bag that had a hole, so he could breathe.
“I think the baby was only a day old as he still had an umbilical cord attached. It seemed like the mother just gave birth and threw him away,” she reminisced on a tragic day.
Immanuel who is a charity worker blurted out the news to the neighbours, who immediately called the police.
The baby, whom she named ‘Natangwe’ an Oshiwambo name meaning praise, was hospitalised with minor injuries for a month, then placed in a foster home.
“Although I could not adopt Natangwe due to the requirements that I could not meet, I am glad that God saved him through me. He found a perfect family and watching him grow and become stronger gives me such happiness. I am also happy that I am now a part of his life and I get to visit him whenever I am free,” said Immanuel, who runs a charity organisation that caters for orphans and vulnerable children.
Immanuel has a dream of one day becoming a mother to 30 abandoned children. “That is what I am working on at the moment,” she said.
A place to call home
To this day, it has never been established why Natangwe was dumped or who his parents were. However, the five-year-old boy has been adopted by a loving family and he is now in grade 0.
“It has always been a desire for me to adopt a child. My husband and I already have a few children under our care before we adopted him, so we decided to adopt him,” narrated Charlene Uakuramenua, Natangwe’s adoptive mother.
Uakuramenua describes Natangwe as gentle and kindhearted.
“Since we adopted him at eight months, he quite had attachment issues and was a bit resistant. However, he eventually bonded with us. He is very quick to say sorry and I am proud to see him grow into a loving young man,” Uakuramenua narrated.
Uakuramenua, a social worker at the Gender Base Violence Protection Unit noted that baby dumping is intricately intertwined with many other teen-related issues, such as teenage pregnancy, and depression.
“People, especially young ones, need to be equipped with information to make proper decisions. No child deserves to grow up in a foster home,” she stated.
In 2019, the government through the ministry of gender equality has decriminalised baby dumping to allow mothers to leave their unwanted newborn babies at safe places without the risk of prosecution.
According to statistics provided by the Namibian police, they have recorded 42 cases of baby dumping during the 2019/ 2020 period.