Covid Orphans Face Abandonment

Covid Orphans Face Neglect And Abandonment | UnBreak the News with Prema Sridevi | Ep: 105

Covid-19 has left lakhs of children orphaned in India. The pandemic-induced abandonment has also exposed how various government schemes have not reached children needing care and support after losing their parents to the pandemic. Here’s the latest episode of UnBreak the News with Prema Sridevi!
First Published: Nov 28,2022 06:22PM


Covid-19 has left lakhs of children orphaned in India. Millions of children are stranded and abandoned in our country, but just a small fragment of those children are adopted. The pandemic-induced abandonment has also exposed how various government schemes have not reached children needing care and support after losing their parents to Covid-19. Our budgets for child protection have been shrinking rapidly, and why should we care? Prema Sridevi UnBreaks this News for you!

(Produced below are the abridged version of the transcripts of the video explainer from Episode: 105 | UnBreak the News with Prema Sridevi | Title: Covid Orphans Face Neglect And Abandonment) 

Covid-19 has left lakhs of children orphaned in India. Millions of children are stranded and abandoned in our country, but just a small fragment of those children are adopted. The pandemic-induced abandonment has also exposed how various government schemes have not reached children needing care and support after losing their parents to the pandemic. Our budgets for child protection have been shrinking rapidly, and why should we care? Let’s UnBreak this News!

According to UNICEF, India has about 29.6 million orphaned and abandoned children. But the Central Adoption Resource Authority, which falls under the Ministry of Women and Child Development, has alarming adoption statistics. Take a look at India’s in-country and inter-country adoption statistics from 2010 to 2022. The adoption numbers have been steadily declining year on year.

India’s in-country and inter-country adoption statistics from 2010 to 2022 | Courtesy: Central Adoption Resource Authority, Ministry of Women and Child Development

The Pandemic has left tens of thousands of children orphaned in India. The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) informed the Supreme Court early this year that 1,47,492 children had lost their parents due to Covid since April 2020.

A Lancet article dated February 24, 2022, reported that more than 19 lakh children had lost their primary caregivers due to Covid in India. But this was hotly contested by the Indian government. The government called the Lancet article “sophisticated trickery intended to create panic among citizens, divorced from the truth and ground reality”.

But what are the ground realities? How many children were orphaned or abandoned during the Pandemic? Where are these children now? How many of them have access to help from the government? To get a sense of the ground realities, we spoke to Jitender Singh Shunty, a Padma Shri Awardee and the founder of the Shaheed Bhagat Singh Sewa Dal. Shunty and his team conducted the last rites of thousands of Covid victims in Delhi during the thick of the Pandemic.

“When Covid-19 erupted from March 2020 to May 2021, we cremated nearly 4,200 Covid dead bodies on record. A 9-year-old child came to me. He lost his father to Covid, and within a week, his mother died too. When he came for the first time, one or two neighbours were sitting inside the ambulance. The second time around, they were also not there. Our ambulance picked up the mother’s dead body. The child was panicking, thinking that his parents had died and maybe he, too, would not survive. I have witnessed at least 100 cases involving children where the children themselves cremated their father’s and mother’s dead bodies. Yesterday, I received a phone call from a girl. She lost three of her family members. First, she lost her father and her brother-in-law and then her mother died. The girl did not receive a rupee yet from the government,” said Shunty.

The Pandemic has left a devastating impact on different states of our country. According to data from the Women and Child Development department in Maharashtra, for every child in the state who lost her mother to Covid-19, nine children lost their fathers.

As per reports, since the start of the Pandemic in March 2020, 28,938 children in the state lost either of their parents to the infection — of those who died, 2,919 were mothers and 25,883 fathers. In 136 cases, more than one child from the same family lost either of their parents.

To help children who have lost both their parents or legal guardian or adoptive parents or surviving parents to Covid-19, the PM Cares for Children scheme was launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on May 29, 2021. The scheme was launched nearly a year after the Pandemic devastated the lives of scores of children.

The objective of the scheme was to ensure “comprehensive care and protection of children in a sustained manner and enable their well-being through health insurance, empower them through education and equip them for self-sufficient existence with financial support on reaching 23 years of age”. But so far, only a small percentage of the orphaned and abandoned children have received assistance through the PM Cares for Children scheme. Even on the one hand, when the PM Cares for Children’s website mentions the importance of the “protection of children in a sustained manner”, child protection has been one of the least prioritised sectors in resource allocation over the years.

In the Union Budget of 2022-23, children have received the lowest share of financial allocations in the last 11 years. The share for children has reduced from 4.64 per cent in 2013 – 2014 to 2.35 per cent in 2022 – 2023, which means that the children’s share in the budget has almost halved since the Modi government took charge.

Children without families are the most vulnerable people in the world. Lakhs of children who were orphaned and abandoned during the Pandemic are still suffering in silence amongst us. Many of their names don’t even add up as numbers in the government’s registers. Every child has the right to be safe, grow, learn and play. And protection of these rights should be the top priority of the government.

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