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Real lives

Abandoned babies find a loving home

At Beautiful Gate orphanage, abandoned babies are given nutritious food and loving care
By Dan Thomas

MASERU, 29 October 2004 – The babies being cared for at the Beautiful Gate orphanage in Maseru, Lesotho are true survivors.

Some of them were abandoned in latrines, ditches, old cars and even a graveyard. Most were barely breathing when they were discovered and rushed to hospital.

“In some cases it was obvious the mother wanted the child to die,” explains Sue Haakonsen, who set up this non-profit orphanage on the edge of Lesotho’s capital with her husband Ray.

Supported by donations from well-wishers all over the world and from UNICEF, the orphanage has cared for more than 60 abandoned infants since it opened its doors on 25 June 2001.

At present, Sue, Ray and their team of dedicated local matrons are caring for 21 children aged from a few days old to about three years. “Our main intention is to get them into families,” says Sue as she cuddles one of the babies. Since they started the orphanage, 23 babies have been adopted by local and foreign families and five have died of AIDS-related illnesses.

“This is a relatively new phenomenon which is not yet properly documented,” explains UNICEF’s Representative in Lesotho Bertrand Desmoulins. “This phenomenon is connected to young women who have left their families to seek a better future in the capital. They are often abused by men and find themselves pregnant. They are desperate and could have been raped,” says Mr. Desmoulins.

Lesotho is one of the least developed countries in the world. More than half of the country’s 2.2 million population are trapped below the poverty line, living on less than $1 a day.

The HIV/AIDS pandemic is also threatening the country's very social fabric – indiscriminately wiping out parents, teachers and labourers, and leaving Lesotho's children with a crippling legacy.

In a country where more than half the population is under the age of 25, the face of HIV/AIDS is getting younger and younger. Many of the babies arriving at Beautiful Gate are HIV positive, having been infected in their mother’s womb or during birth. But after retesting, done when the infants are 12-18 months old, more than 15 have turned HIV negative – a fact that Ray and Sue put down to prayer, nutritious food and loving care.




29 October 2004: Beautiful Gate orphanage provides a loving home for abandoned babies in Lesotho

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