New Delhi: At least 40 children who have been orphaned due to Covid-19 second wave have been traced by the Delhi Commission for Protection of Child Rights (DCPCR), said the commission’s chairperson Anurag Kundu.
“We have traced 40-41 children in Delhi who have lost both parents in the pandemic,” Kundu told ThePrint.
This comes just days after the Ministry for Women and Child Development had said that 577 children have been orphaned due to the pandemic across the country.
However, according to data available with the ministry, the number of children orphaned in Delhi was just one.
Kundu clarified that this could be due to the deaths that have not been reported. “While there is no evidence to rebut or refute the 577 figure given by the Ministry, there are also incredible numbers of death that are under-reported which might, by consequence, result in a number of children who have been orphaned as well,” he said.
As the second wave of the pandemic surged through the national capital last month, the child rights body of the Delhi government had raised alarm over the circulation of social media posts for the adoption of ‘Covid orphans’ or children who lost both parents to the virus.
The DCPCR Thursday launched a helpline number to address concerns of children whose parents are hospitalised due to Covid or succumbed to the virus.
The DCPCR is a statutory body created under the Commissions for Protection of Child Rights Act, 2005, to protect and monitor the implementation of the rights of the children as well as promote their cause.
Social, emotional support for children
Kundu also said that with the deluge of deaths in the pandemic, it is necessary for governments to provide social and emotional support to children who have lost their parents.
“Governments can play a role in helping children dealing with their trauma by providing social and emotional support. When DCPCR called families of children who have lost parents, they were so happy that at least someone had called to check in on them,” he said.
The child rights body chief also noted that there is a need by governments to provide comfort to children. “This can be done through periodic home visits, phone calls asking them about their medical and emotional needs. Consistent communication is essential in a situation like this.”
Furthermore, as preparation for the possible third wave of the pandemic, Kundu said that a contingency plan was needed to avoid the catastrophe that occurred during the second wave. This includes ramping up medical infrastructure for children and also ensuring that in order to keep children safe, newborn immunisations don’t suffer.
“Everybody is talking about Covid vaccines but to protect children we need to make sure that they don’t miss out on new born immunisations like Polio or for Hepatitis B. We need to plan for how children are immunised in the pandemic,” he told ThePrint.
Plea to vaccinate pregnant mothers
Meanwhile, the DCPCR had also approached the Supreme Court, on 18 May, to begin vaccination for pregnant and lactating mothers as high-risk groups, in order to protect them from Covid.
The petition says that the body had written a letter to the health ministry on the matter but received no acknowledgement or response from them on changing the vaccination policy.
A day after the petition was filed, the Narendra Modi government allowed lactating mothers to get vaccinated.
While the government is yet to change its policy on pregnant women, Kundu said that there is a need to get them vaccinated on priority.
“They are a significant high risk group and have significantly higher chances of falling sick and of falling sick severely due to Covid so they need to be prioritised, which is why we had moved the petition,” he said.
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