A baby girl was left in a designated baby box in Cheb. It is the first baby to be left in the box in its four years and ten days of operation.
The girl was about two hours old and was unwashed and still had an untied umbilical cord. She was left in blanket, according to multiple media reports.
Doctors say the girl was left in the box Dec. 30 seems healthy except for some exposure to the cold. She weighs 2.8 kilograms and measures 48 cm. Doctors estimate she was born after 36 weeks of pregnancy.
She has been named Lenka after Lenka Drahokoupilová, the doctor who first treated her, according to the media. There had been some confusion, as originally some people called her Ondřejka, after Cheb physician Ondřej Čapek.
Baby boxes are designated places where a parent can leave an unwanted child without facing any legal ramifications. The boxes are usually at hospitals or clinics and they automatically notify the medical staff when the box door is opened and closed.
Some 68 boxes are in use across the Czech Republic. The first one opened in July 2005 in Prague.
The boxes are intended to be a way to let mothers who don’t want their babies have some way to get rid of them anonymously, without the paperwork of adoption. The boxes are also meant to prevent babies being abandoned in unsafe conditions, or worse.
A baby was found alive in a dumpster in 2013 in the Cheb area, for example.
Lenka is just the second infant to be left in a baby box in the Karlovy Vary region. The first was in Sokolov. The region has the lowest rate of abandoned babies in the country, according to Ludvík Hess, the man behind the baby box project.
Across the country, Lenka was the 18th baby left in a baby box this year. Some 130 children have been left in the boxes since the program began, with 76 being girls and 54 being boys.
The baby box project is not without critics. In October a group of doctors said that the boxes deprived children of their right to know their parents and origin, and that the number of fatally abandoned babies has not dropped since the project began.
They were responding to Czech President Miloš Zeman having given a state honor to Hess for his efforts in the project.
The UN Committee for Child Rights in 2011 also urged that the project be canceled. The UN committee said the state should “undertake all measures necessary to end the baby-box program as soon as possible, to expeditiously strengthen and promote alternatives, and to address the root causes that lead to the abandonment of infants, including provision of family planning as well as adequate counseling and social support for unplanned pregnancies.”
Hess at the time dismissed the criticism and also pointed out that the project is funded by private donations and is not a state-run effort.