Work on rehabilitation, health infra to protect children orphaned in Covid, NHRC tells states

Hospital workers move a dead Covid patient, to be transported to a crematorium | Praveen Jain | ThePrint

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New Delhi: To ensure children are protected amid the ongoing second wave of the pandemic, the National Human Rights Council (NHRC) has issued an advisory and asked all states and UTs to submit action taken reports in the next four weeks. The advisory, dated 2 June, was sent to all states and UTs as well as the ministries of women and child development (WCD), health, home affairs, department of food, school and education, and literacy.

It recommends ramping up health and education infrastructure for children as well as ensuring rehabilitation of those who have been orphaned during the pandemic.

“On the basis of this advisory, the concerned Union Ministries and State Government(s)/ UT Administration(s) are requested to provide an Action Taken Report(s) on the specific measures undertaken and implemented to safeguard the rights of children in view of the conditions imposed by the pandemic,” it stated.

The NHRC had in September 2020 issued a similar advisory to help governments protect children in view of the unprecedented situation imposed by the pandemic and the resultant lockdowns.

Also read: Govt issues guidelines for protection of children affected by Covid, fixes role of states, DMs

Strengthening paediatric infrastructure

The commission has advised states to strengthen paediatric systems in hospitals by increasing the number of beds, availability of required trained staff, facilities, equipment, and medicines.

For children isolated in Covid care facilities, the commission recommended psycho-social support based on the child’s age and gender, including online or telephonic interaction with parents at specific intervals. The commission has also recommended special care and treatment of children with disabilities.

The advisory further asks states to maintain disaggregated data on their official website on the number of children who have tested for Covid, positive cases, recoveries and deaths, along with the special steps taken to strengthen paediatric Covid care facilities, in the interest of transparency.

Steps to ensure orphans are protected

The NHRC advisory states that all efforts need to be made to ensure children, whose parents have died during the pandemic, receive care. States are to ensure that a child is immediately produced before the Child Welfare Committee if the child is found orphaned without any support.

According to the WCD ministry last month, 577 children had been orphaned in the second wave of the pandemic.

The NHRC has asked district magistrates to provide immediate rehabilitation to children who have lost either or both parents, and provide action taken reports to the WCD ministry. It has also suggested that a district level committee be set up to oversee child protection schemes.

District magistrates have also been asked to ensure economic support to such children by linking them to existing social protection schemes and policies within four to six weeks of the death of a parent/both parents.

The commission has also asked states to indicate state-wise progress in the rehabilitation of all children orphaned during the pandemic, including the number of orphans identified.

In addition, the commission has also asked states to ensure universalisation of digital facilities to ensure access to online education for all children, monitor the budget allocation and resources that enable children from vulnerable socio-economic backgrounds to participate in online classes, and take all necessary steps to ensure that children do not drop out of school due to the circumstances imposed by the pandemic.

(Edited by Manasa Mohan)

Also read: At least 40 children orphaned due to Covid traced in Delhi, says child rights body


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