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GoI claims 577 Covid-orphans, but numbers may far exceed official data: Outreach workers

Considering the number of Covid-death underreporting and rising number of children losing one parent, the situation may be worse than what the figure suggests, says NGO Save The Children.

Vallari Sanzgiri 28 May 2021

Image Courtesy:in.news.yahoo.com

Recent government figure of 577 orphaned children may be grossly under-reported, especially after considering the number of semi-orphan children, non-government organisation Save The Children told SabrangIndia on May 27, 2021.

On May 25, the Union Ministry of Women and Child Development talked about committed efforts to support 577 children who lost their parents to Covid-19 between April 1 and May 25, 2021. Union Minister Smriti Irani tweeted this number while talking about children who had lost both their parents during the second wave of the health crisis.

Further, she also started a Twitter thread to remind people about their “legal responsibility” to protect such children from harm’s way, while listing a child helpline 1098. Irani warned people against falling into the trap of people who contact people for direct adoption of orphan children. Citizens are to inform the local Child Welfare Committee or Police or the Childline on coming across such illegal activity.

Telephonic aid during Covid-19 second wave

A brief call to the number managed by Childline India Foundation by Sabran India indicated that both, good Samaritans and orphaned children, receive a prompt response on the number and are put in contact with a response team that comes to the child’s aid. This team at times includes Save The Children outreach workers, who are spread across 12 states in India.

According to NGO-member Prabhat Kumar, neighbours or someone in the community calls the helpline more often than the children themselves. Moreover, the condition of each of these children differs. After their parent's or guardian's death, the child is generally sent to their relatives or child care institutions. However, even when children live with their kin, people are apprehensive of contracting Covid-19 that caused their parents’ death. This is why Kumar argued that district child welfare committees should be notified about semi-orphan children as well.

Who are semi-orphan?

Kumar defined semi-orphaned children as under-age children, who have lost one parent or guardian. As per state information collected by the NGO, the number of semi-orphan children during the second wave of coronavirus is much higher. Moreover, he said that these children are also more vulnerable to exploitation.

“Semi-orphaned children are vulnerable to child-labour and trafficking. This is because many times the person who has died is the breadwinner of the family. There is no one to support the family after the death of the guardian. Even the Integrated Child Protection Scheme (ICPS) and the Juvenile Justice system recognises the need to protect them,” he said.

Data on orphaned children during Covid-19

In light of persistent news of underreported Covid-deaths, it is difficult to assess the exact number of children who were orphaned in India. However, Save The Children suspects 577 may not be an accurate number, especially considering recent data on the subject by Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan alone amounts to 402 orphans.

Referring to government data, Kumar said that Andhra Pradesh reported 135 orphans and 1,716 semi-orphans in the last two months. Madhya Pradesh reported 250 orphans and 1,200 semi-orphans between April and May. Meanwhile, Rajasthan said 17 orphans were registered between March and May 15.

“These amount to 402 orphans who have lost both parents in just three states. There are other states that report much higher official Covid-deaths. So, it can be assumed that the number is much higher,” he said.

According to a recent article by The Indian Express, 1,572 children were orphaned in Maharashtra of which 98 children lost both parents. Still, the irregularity in Covid deaths has made such data difficult to compile. Organisations that carry out cremations for abandoned bodies state that most people do not even notify authorities if a death takes place in their vicinity. Families also leave their loved ones in the street for fear of contracting the infection.

How are state governments protecting these children?

Kumar identified nine state governments and one union territory that started initiatives like free education and ration or scholarships for Covid-orphans.

Similarly, the Indian Express reported that Rs 10 lakh were allotted per district for the non-institutional care of orphans under the Integrated Child Protection Scheme. However, Kumar argued that this allotment should be increased in accordance with the number of children who have lost their guardian in each district.

“Within child protection system there is the ICPS provision to provide a sponsorship of Rs. 2,000 per month to vulnerable children, including semi-orphans. Health, education and safety needs should also be addressed with all this until the child reaches adulthood i.e., 21-24 years. Our organisation prefers the latter,” said Kumar.

Recently, hospitals were directed to mention whether they have any children in their registration forms to keep a track on minors in case of death. At such times of hospitalisation or isolation, local child welfare communities should also provide temporary care and support. Such a safe space is all the more pertinent, considering claims that the third wave of Covid-19 will affect children as well.

Community awareness about child-protection

Despite central and state provisions, many people are still not aware about the dos and don'ts of child protection, including the helpline number 1098. Nowadays, Save The Children focuses on reporting and verifying messages circulating on social media that talk about child adoptions. This aside from their work to provide around 100 orphaned children across India with food packages.

“We have tried to contact the people circulating these messages but most times the response is very suspect. People either don’t know where the child is or avoid questions. 90 percent of the time, these messages turn out to be fake,” he said.

The Ministry of Women and Child Development website flashes a notice every time a person accesses its website. Yet, people with little access to the internet are still not aware of due procedure.

Related:

EXCLUSIVE: Hundreds die of Covid and data goes missing, UP gov’t remorseless
Bihar’s odious and short-sighted response to Covid-19
Covid-19: Karnataka unable to dispose of the dead, even as people struggle to survive
Is the right to health a forgotten constitutional mandate?

GoI claims 577 Covid-orphans, but numbers may far exceed official data: Outreach workers

Considering the number of Covid-death underreporting and rising number of children losing one parent, the situation may be worse than what the figure suggests, says NGO Save The Children.

Image Courtesy:in.news.yahoo.com

Recent government figure of 577 orphaned children may be grossly under-reported, especially after considering the number of semi-orphan children, non-government organisation Save The Children told SabrangIndia on May 27, 2021.

On May 25, the Union Ministry of Women and Child Development talked about committed efforts to support 577 children who lost their parents to Covid-19 between April 1 and May 25, 2021. Union Minister Smriti Irani tweeted this number while talking about children who had lost both their parents during the second wave of the health crisis.

Further, she also started a Twitter thread to remind people about their “legal responsibility” to protect such children from harm’s way, while listing a child helpline 1098. Irani warned people against falling into the trap of people who contact people for direct adoption of orphan children. Citizens are to inform the local Child Welfare Committee or Police or the Childline on coming across such illegal activity.

Telephonic aid during Covid-19 second wave

A brief call to the number managed by Childline India Foundation by Sabran India indicated that both, good Samaritans and orphaned children, receive a prompt response on the number and are put in contact with a response team that comes to the child’s aid. This team at times includes Save The Children outreach workers, who are spread across 12 states in India.

According to NGO-member Prabhat Kumar, neighbours or someone in the community calls the helpline more often than the children themselves. Moreover, the condition of each of these children differs. After their parent's or guardian's death, the child is generally sent to their relatives or child care institutions. However, even when children live with their kin, people are apprehensive of contracting Covid-19 that caused their parents’ death. This is why Kumar argued that district child welfare committees should be notified about semi-orphan children as well.

Who are semi-orphan?

Kumar defined semi-orphaned children as under-age children, who have lost one parent or guardian. As per state information collected by the NGO, the number of semi-orphan children during the second wave of coronavirus is much higher. Moreover, he said that these children are also more vulnerable to exploitation.

“Semi-orphaned children are vulnerable to child-labour and trafficking. This is because many times the person who has died is the breadwinner of the family. There is no one to support the family after the death of the guardian. Even the Integrated Child Protection Scheme (ICPS) and the Juvenile Justice system recognises the need to protect them,” he said.

Data on orphaned children during Covid-19

In light of persistent news of underreported Covid-deaths, it is difficult to assess the exact number of children who were orphaned in India. However, Save The Children suspects 577 may not be an accurate number, especially considering recent data on the subject by Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan alone amounts to 402 orphans.

Referring to government data, Kumar said that Andhra Pradesh reported 135 orphans and 1,716 semi-orphans in the last two months. Madhya Pradesh reported 250 orphans and 1,200 semi-orphans between April and May. Meanwhile, Rajasthan said 17 orphans were registered between March and May 15.

“These amount to 402 orphans who have lost both parents in just three states. There are other states that report much higher official Covid-deaths. So, it can be assumed that the number is much higher,” he said.

According to a recent article by The Indian Express, 1,572 children were orphaned in Maharashtra of which 98 children lost both parents. Still, the irregularity in Covid deaths has made such data difficult to compile. Organisations that carry out cremations for abandoned bodies state that most people do not even notify authorities if a death takes place in their vicinity. Families also leave their loved ones in the street for fear of contracting the infection.

How are state governments protecting these children?

Kumar identified nine state governments and one union territory that started initiatives like free education and ration or scholarships for Covid-orphans.

Similarly, the Indian Express reported that Rs 10 lakh were allotted per district for the non-institutional care of orphans under the Integrated Child Protection Scheme. However, Kumar argued that this allotment should be increased in accordance with the number of children who have lost their guardian in each district.

“Within child protection system there is the ICPS provision to provide a sponsorship of Rs. 2,000 per month to vulnerable children, including semi-orphans. Health, education and safety needs should also be addressed with all this until the child reaches adulthood i.e., 21-24 years. Our organisation prefers the latter,” said Kumar.

Recently, hospitals were directed to mention whether they have any children in their registration forms to keep a track on minors in case of death. At such times of hospitalisation or isolation, local child welfare communities should also provide temporary care and support. Such a safe space is all the more pertinent, considering claims that the third wave of Covid-19 will affect children as well.

Community awareness about child-protection

Despite central and state provisions, many people are still not aware about the dos and don'ts of child protection, including the helpline number 1098. Nowadays, Save The Children focuses on reporting and verifying messages circulating on social media that talk about child adoptions. This aside from their work to provide around 100 orphaned children across India with food packages.

“We have tried to contact the people circulating these messages but most times the response is very suspect. People either don’t know where the child is or avoid questions. 90 percent of the time, these messages turn out to be fake,” he said.

The Ministry of Women and Child Development website flashes a notice every time a person accesses its website. Yet, people with little access to the internet are still not aware of due procedure.

Related:

EXCLUSIVE: Hundreds die of Covid and data goes missing, UP gov’t remorseless
Bihar’s odious and short-sighted response to Covid-19
Covid-19: Karnataka unable to dispose of the dead, even as people struggle to survive
Is the right to health a forgotten constitutional mandate?

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