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Not 19 lakh, but 1.5 lakh children have lost parents to Covid, India strongly refutes Lancet study

Updated government figures show 10,386 children have been orphaned, 1.4 lakh have lost a single parent, while 492 children have been abandoned in the pandemic.

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New Delhi: The Ministry of Women and Child Development Ministry has said that data on Covid orphans in India – put out by a team of researchers in a Lancet journal – was greatly exaggerated.

According to figures on the ministry’s Baal Swaraj-Covid care portal, 1,53,827 children have been either orphaned, lost a single parent, or been abandoned during the Covid pandemic.

The study published in The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health journal earlier this week estimated that 19 lakh children had lost either a parent or a primary caregiver due to Covid.

“The Ministry of Women and Child Development finds the Lancet article dated 24 February giving estimates of children affected by Covid-19 associated orphanhood very surprising and contrary to field data in this regard,” the ministry said in a statement.

“Lancet has reported that more than 19 Lakh children have lost their primary caregivers due to covid in India. There is no doubt that the researchers have used sophisticated methodology to estimate the numbers about children, who have lost their primary caregivers, but these findings have no correlation with ground reality in India as reflected from field findings. As per field data coming from the States/UTs and being compiled as per the directions and monitoring of Hon’ble Supreme Court, the numbers for India are about 1.53 lakhs,” the statement read.

In response to the study, the ministry consolidated its numbers on the tracking portal ‘Bal Swaraj (COVID-Care)’, devised by the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) to monitor children in need of care.

The data accessed by ThePrint shows that 10,386 children have been orphaned since March 1, 2020, 1,42,949 have lost a single parent, while 492 children have been abandoned since the pandemic hit the country.

Odisha has the highest number of children having lost at least one parent – 26,318.

This is closely followed by Maharashtra where 20,429 children have either lost one parent, or have been abandoned during Covid.

As many as 14,934 children have lost at least one parent in Gujarat, while 11,908 children have lost a parent in Tamil Nadu.

The portal is also used to track children who have lost both parents during COVID-19.

This data includes not just children who lost their parents to Covid, but also to other ailments during the course of the pandemic.

The Lancet study was conducted by researchers from the US, UK and South Africa over a 20-month period starting March 2020.

The study has estimated the numbers based on death data reported by countries.

The 19-lakh figure estimated by the Lancet study includes children who also lost grandparents or any other caregiver in the household.

A ministry source told ThePrint that official numbers were much lower.

However, the data on the portal is still being updated in real time.

Also read: Over 1.9 million Indian kids lost parent or caregiver to COVID-19: Lancet study


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