New Delhi: A total of 577 children in India have lost both parents to Covid-19 during the aggressive second wave of the pandemic, ThePrint has learnt.
According to sources in the Ministry of Women and Child Development, the orphaned children have been identified by the state governments and are receiving support from the ministry and district authorities.
“All the children who have been orphaned have been identified by state governments and the ministry is in direct touch with state governments so that they receive adequate support with district authorities who are working directly with us,” a top ministry official, who wished to remain unnamed, told ThePrint.
The official noted that the number has been revealed to end the speculation that lakhs of children lost their parents to Covid.
“The number is being put out to put an end to fear mongering that lakhs of children have been orphaned in the pandemic. This means these children are not abandoned and are under watch and protection,” he said.
With an unprecedented rise in Covid fatalities across the country, during the ongoing second wave of the pandemic, several children have been orphaned with entire families being wiped out. As a result, in the past few weeks, several social media messages are also doing the rounds for the adoption of these ‘Covid orphans’. Government authorities have come down heavily against these posts as they expose orphaned and traumatised children to illegal adoption or worse, child trafficking and child labour.
In order to make the adoption process smoother, the WCD ministry had also earlier told the health ministry that parents infected with Covid-19 who are being admitted to hospitals should declare in a form who their children should be handed over to if they die.
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WCD ministry efforts for Covid orphans
The ministry officials further stated that they were constantly in touch with the state governments to ensure that no child, who has been orphaned by Covid, is unidentified or slips out of the system.
This is why the Centre, state and district administrations are working together to ensure all orphans are identified and rehabilitated, they added.
Furthermore, not all of these children are under institutional care and several are with family members, the officials noted.
Meanwhile, the National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro-Sciences (NIMHANS), the apex centre of mental health in the country, will also provide counselling to these children.
Each district will also receive Rs 10 lakh to provide non-institutional care to children orphaned by Covid. The district authorities will take a call on how to use this money to rehabilitate these children — whether it is with counselling or any other form of assistance.
Additionally, according to sources, the ministry is also working with state governments to check fake messages doing the rounds on social media, supposedly seeking support for ‘Covid orphans’. The ministry has asked state governments to ensure that police take action against such cases.
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