Beijing, June 25 (IANS/EFE) Baby hatches built in various cities of China in order to give shelter to children belonging to poor families have received 1,400 babies since their creation three years ago, authorities reported Wednesday.

Many abandoned children suffer from illnesses or have different disabilities, country's ministry of civil affairs said in a statement.

The first centre was opened in June 2011 in Shijiazhuang, capital of Hebei, and since then these buildings have been involved in controversies as, according to many people in China, these types of places increase the abandonment of babies.

According to the ministry, these centres can save the life of babies who earlier were left in less hygienic places, which threatened their life more.

Baby hatches are generally small booths situated in the middle of the street, contain an incubator inside, an alarm that goes off several minutes after someone enters (to give some time to parents to leave without being seen), air conditioners and a cot.

The authorities accepted that the baby hatches, in trial period, need a good regulation for their management, which will be drafted in the future, according to the statement.

Zhan Chengfu, a senior official in the ministry, said that other countries also have this type of centres, but in China the abandoned babies are usually elder and narrated the case of a 12-year-old minor who was left in one of these booths.

Also, the percentage of abandoned babies having parents is higher in China, as in other countries the children abandoned in such centres are usually orphans.

In March last year, the southern city of Guangzhou, one of the biggest in China, was forced to temporarily shut down its baby receiving centre due to the lack of resources to provide for the large number of babies it received.

Though the abandonment of children is an illegal practice, it is common in China, particularly in big cities of the country where single immigrant mothers work in harsh labour conditions.

According to a study by the health authorities, in Guangzhou, around one-fourth of immigrants have become pregnant out of wedlock, something that is considered a crime in China.



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