The Edhi Foundation, Pakistan’s largest social welfare organization, runs an unconventional service that has saved more than 25,000 unwanted babies since its inception — baby cradles. Inspired by humanitarian Abdul Sattar Edhi’s compassion for helpless infants, these baby cradles offer desperate parents a haven to leave babies they cannot care for.
The Cradle System to Save Unwanted Babies
The first cradle was set up in Karachi in the 1970s by Bilquis Edhi, wife of humanitarian Abdul Sattar Edhi, who founded the Edhi Foundation. Bilquis aimed to tackle the alarming rate of infanticide and baby dumping in Pakistan. Today, around 300 Edhi cradles operate in cities across Pakistan, providing desperate mothers with a safe way to give up unwanted infants anonymously. The cradles have signs urging, “Don’t kill your baby; leave them here.”
Once someone gently lays an infant in the cot lined with soft fabric, the parent can close the door and walk away. It triggers an alarm to alert Edhi staff, who swiftly come to collect the baby and provide care. The anonymity saves mothers from stigma and prosecution while ensuring their babies get saved instead of killed or abandoned unsafely. Edhi Cradles receives an estimated 20 abandoned infants every month. Though the project initially faced backlash, it has saved many precious lives.
Inspirational Stories of Babies That Edhi Saved
Over the decades, the Edhi Foundation has raised thousands of abandoned babies in their orphanages. Many heartwarming stories have emerged, like that of Rabia Bano Osman. As an orphaned newborn, she was left in a cradle outside an Edhi center in Karachi 29 years ago. An American couple adopted Rabia at six months old. She recently paid tribute to Bilquis Edhi, crediting her for the opportunities that allowed Rabia to become an accomplished lawyer in the U.S.
Stories of Life-Changing Bonds
Other inspirational stories include Geeta, a deaf and mute Indian girl who accidentally crossed into Pakistan around age 10. Bilquis Edhi raised her as her daughter at an Edhi center, even setting up a small Hindu temple for her. DNA tests in 2015 helped reunite Geeta with her birth mother in India, though she maintained her bond with Bilquis.
Each child saved represents a life profoundly impacted thanks to the Edhis’ dedication. These stories showcase the deep human connections and family ties that transcend borders, disabilities and circumstances.
Providing Care and Hope for Society’s Most Vulnerable
At Edhi orphanages, abandoned babies receive dedicated care often until adoption. The Foundation’s orphanages have cared for many, like Geeta — the Indian girl Bilquis raised despite her disability. The Edhi Foundation’s work even helped babies born out of wedlock, countering stigma in conservative Pakistan. Its humanitarian work has received praise for providing an essential social service.
Today, Abdul Sattar Edhi’s son Faisal heads the organization, continuing his parents’ legacy. By providing care for infants given up due to poverty, the Edhi Foundation helps reduce the cycle of poverty passing to the next generation.
The Edhi cradle offers hope for the innocent lives of society’s voiceless and unwanted. Through a simple box with a silent alarm, these baby cradles saved more than 25,000 babies and counting.
– Asia Jamil