India has reported a record number of deaths from COVID-19, over the past weeks. Whilst some children who lose their parents are taken in by relatives or guardians, others are left to fend for themselves, putting them at risk of child trafficking.
To protect children from falling prey to child traffickers, Save the Children is urging people not to share details about orphaned children online, and instead to contact 1098. Save the Children is deeply concerned about the growing number of children who have lost parents to COVID-19 in India. Desperate pleas to adopt orphaned children have circulated on social media, leaving them vulnerable to trafficking and abuse.
One post shared on social media read: “Kids aged 2 yrs old baby girl and 2 months old baby boy whose parents have passed away due to Covid. These kids need a home. If anyone close to you is looking for adoption, please contact…”
In order to prevent illegal adoptions, hospitals across the country have reportedly been told to take declarations from sick parents, to confirm who their children should go to in case of their deaths.
Kushal, age 9, and Preti, 10, first reached out to Save the Children for help when their mother started suffering from a fever and was diagnosed with COVID-19. Despite being admitted to a local clinic and even with access to oxygen, she passed away. Kushal and Preti weren’t allowed to attend her funeral due to local restrictions. With their father not being able to take care of them while he’s at work and, unable to get their usual meals at school, the children were going hungry. Save the Children staff is working with the local child protection unit and are arranging care for both children.
Sanjay Sharma, Deputy Programs Director for Save the Children in India said:
“This is an incredibly confusing and difficult time for children, especially for those who have lost their parents. Every day we receive around 80 distress calls from children in just one state, and we’re concerned that things will get even worse for as the death toll continues to rise. Children who lose their caregivers and are left to fend for themselves are extremely vulnerable to exploitation and abuse, and we’re doing everything we can to protect them from falling victim to illegal adoption or trafficking.
Besides the immediate threat to their safety, we’re also extremely concerned about the toll this crisis is taking on children’s mental health. In many cases, these children will have had to watch their parents suffer without access to oxygen or proper medical care, which is likely to leave them extremely distressed. Children from poorer families might also have to work to support their families, or care for younger brothers or sisters, which means they’ll have to drop out of school, trapping them in a cycle of poverty.”
Save the Children provides mental health support to children who have lost their parents to the virus. The organisation’s helpline in collaboration with the state commission in Rajasthan has been receiving an average of 80 calls every day. These helplines provide psychosocial support and can redirect cases of children who need protection to the rightful authorities. The helpline is mostly called by children between 14 to 18 years old and by parents.
If you come to know of any child who has lost both parents to Covid and has no one to take care of her/him, contact 1098. It is your responsibility.