The situation of orphans has become a global “underground pandemic” while Covid-19 is still raging in many countries.
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Alviano Dava Raharjo (8 years old) knows that his parents are hospitalized in Kutai district and Kalimantan district (Indonesia respectively), but the boy wonders why they have not come home yet.
“He asked me, ‘Grandpa, why hasn’t mom come home yet?'” Yatin, Alviano’s grandfather, told The Straits Times.
At that time, the boy still did not know that his mother, Lina Safitri (32 years old), who was 5 months pregnant, had died of Covid-19. Kino Raharjo (32 years old), the boy’s father, a street vendor, also died the next day and was buried near his wife.
Currently, Alviano is cared for by his grandfather and other family members in Sragen (Java province). The boy has not yet recovered from the sudden death of his parents.
“My grandson said twice, ‘Grandpa, I still can’t believe my parents are dead,'” he shared.
Quantity Orphaned children due to Covid-19 like Alviano is increasing rapidly globally, especially when the world recorded 4.55 million deaths within 18 months of the outbreak.
According to a new study published in the medical journal The Lancet, from March 1, 2020 to April 30, 2021, more than 1.5 million children became orphaned during the pandemic.
Of which, an estimated 1,134,000 children are orphaned by one or both parents; Others have lost grandparents or primary caregivers in the family.
The public health response to the pandemic, including blockades and school closures, also severely reduces the ability of child protection systems and services to intervene, the researchers explain. Helping orphans in poor countries is even more difficult.
“Status Orphans and the loss of caregivers is an underground pandemic caused by the number of Covid-19 deaths,” the research team confirmed.
Millions of orphans
The study was carried out by experts from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the US Agency for International Development (USAID), the World Bank (WB) and University College London. AFP. They counted deaths in 21 countries, accounting for more than 76% of all Covid-19 cases.
The team used similar methods to estimate the number of children orphaned by AIDS to forecast the number of orphans due to Covid-19 globally. As defined by UNICEF, an orphan is a child under the age of 18 who has lost one or both parents for any reason.
Hundreds of children orphaned because of the pandemic
“One in two Covid-19 deaths in the world is one child left behind, facing the death of a parent or caregiver. As the pandemic continues, the number of orphans due to Covid-19 is increasing. We need to prioritize this group of people and support them for many years to come,” said Susan Hill, an expert from the CDC, who led the study.
Lucie Cluver, study co-author from the University of Oxford, added: “We need to respond quickly because every 12 seconds a child loses a caregiver to Covid-19.”
In India, Zeeshan Ahmed (14 years old), who lives in the city of Kasaragod (Kerala state), was in the hospital with his uncle when his mother died from Covid-19 in May.
It took a while for the boy to accept the fact that his mother was no longer in the world. Meanwhile, Zeeshan’s father left the family 13 years ago and no one has a clue about his whereabouts.
“My grandson suffered after losing his mother, but is slowly accepting it and returning to a normal life. I have been taking care of my sister and nephew for many years. Therefore, I will continue to raise Zeeshan,” Shanvaz, Zeeshan’s uncle, told The Hindu.
In the city of Thiruvananthapuram (Kerala state), two sisters Malini and Mrinalini, aged 16 and 11, respectively, became orphans after their parents and grandmother died in the last few days of May. She tries to be strong, but the pain of losing her family is clearly visible in her suffering.
Amid personal tragedies, many children are trying to work through their grief and prepare for school and exams.
Anoop (18 years old) and her 16-year-old sister, living in Ernakulam (Kerala state), lost both their parents in just 2 months. In March, the brothers’ mother passed away just three weeks after being diagnosed with cancer. In April, their father tested positive for nCoV. He was unable to fight the disease and died a week after being hospitalized. The two brothers now live with their grandparents, according to The Hindu.
“When I was about to take the high school graduation exam this year, my father was still around. Two days after I finished the exam, he passed away,” Anoop said.
The consequences last for many years
The impact of the pandemic has worsened the living conditions of children around the world, according to Save the Children. It has pushed back decades of efforts to protect children – the most vulnerable group, and seriously affects their future.
The health system was weak and the child protection system collapsed, and many families fell into poverty. Malnutrition rates increase as families lose their sources of income and livelihoods.
Nilda López’s three children are among about 99,000 children in Peru who have lost a parent to the pandemic. López’s mother herself has not yet overcome the loss of her husband’s death, but still has to make a living to support 12-year-old twins and a 6-month-old youngest child.
Not long ago, when Covid-19 began to attack López’s organs, doctors decided that the best chance to save both her and her six-month fetus was to put her in a coma.
At that time, López, living in a settlement on the northern edge of Lima (Peru), feared that she would not wake up again, or that the child in her womb would be gone.
Her husband had died of the disease, and doctors predicted that López would soon be as well given the disease at the time. However, the mother passed the death door.
“This is God’s miracle. Maybe he doesn’t want me to die because I have children who need me. Therefore, I will try for them. The kids really need me,” she said.
UNICEF believes there are steps governments and the international aid community need to take now to ensure every family continues to have access to social protection, counseling and healthcare.
Child protective services must be strengthened. Schools and certain other services for children should remain open and accessible.
“As Covid-19 continues to wreak havoc on families and communities, we must protect the right of every child to live and grow up in an environment that fully supports their physical, psychological, and spiritual development. their social and emotional well-being,” said Henrietta Fore, Executive Director of UNICEF.
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