ON a busy road in Haryana’s Faridabad, 6-year-old Renu was found sitting next to her mother’s lifeless body at a traffic signal. Covid-19, which took away her father a few weeks back, had come again for her mother too. Over 300 kilometers south of Faridabad, little Nisha in Madhya Pradesh’s Bhind district jolts awake in tears and calls out for her mother, while her 10-year-old sister Khushi, the oldest of four children, pacifies her. Khushi assumed the role of father and mother for her siblings after her parents succumbed to the virus. These are just two of the stories of thousands of COVID orphans across the country.
The COVID orphans
During the second wave of the pandemic, as India made global headlines for the oxygen crisis, overwhelmed hospitals and crematoriums, and the atmosphere of despair, there was one tragedy that fell between the cracks. The pandemic, not just wrecked lives across the country but also made innumerable children Covid orphans.
According to a study published in the medical journal The Lancet, 1.19 lakh children in India lost their parents or primary caregivers because of Covid-19, with 8.5 times increase in children orphaned in April alone, compared to the previous months. The numbers are likely to be much higher with many unreported cases.
Adoption, too, had taken a backseat because of the pandemic. Moreover, it is not the immediate solution because of the lengthy legal process. In any case, with very low adoption rates – especially of older children, the chances of many of the Covid orphans finding a loving home are remote.
The children who suddenly lost their parents to Covid are not only emotionally vulnerable and their future uncertain, but they are also at a greater risk of falling victim to trafficking, exploitation, child marriage and other social evils.
No child will grow alone
SOS Children’s Villages of India (SOS India) have been working for the welfare of parentless and abandoned children for decades, and they are now taking care of Covid orphans, too, so that they can provide them with education, nutrition, health and psychological development.
Founded in 1964, SOS India is a non-profit organisation committed to the welfare of children who have lost their parents or are at risk of losing adequate parental care. Spread over 22 Indian states, 32 SOS villages have so far opened their loving arms to 28,500 vulnerable children by building families for them and helping shape their future through community-based projects like family strengthening programmes, kindergartens, schools, vocational training centres, and a nursing school.
The loving ‘mothers’ of SOS
It can sometimes be the end of all hope for Covid orphans who lost their parents, especially their mothers. But at SOS, they find new hope in the caregiver who takes up the role of a selfless mother.
Called ‘SOS Mothers’, these professionally trained women treat the children in her care like their own, provide love and warmth and play a central role in the upbringing and development of each and every child. Their commitment and bonds are so robust that even after the children leave the house to have their own careers and families, they continue to get in touch and visit them.
Apart from this selfless support from mothers, SOS India also provides social and psychological support for the children through counselling, essential healthcare services, food and nutrition to ensure proper growth and development and much more. They spend around ₹10,000 a month to care for one child.
You can sponsor a Covid orphan
As the number of orphaned children who come to SOS after the Covid crisis has increased, the NGO needs support as it strives to reach out to more vulnerable children.
To continue taking care of Covid orphans and expanding their capacities, SOS are in dire need of funds. Click here to know more about SOS and to help children, suddenly left parentless, because of the pandemic.
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Sruthy is a content writer at GiveIndia. A post-graduate in Literature, she is a connoisseur of dank memes… and biriyani. Sruthy is a permaculture enthusiast and likes to write stories about people’s lives for the social sector.