Over 30,000 children are believed to have been left orphaned or without a home as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic in India. This has resulted in an extensive issue regarding uncertainty about how these children will be cared for, a reality that is present across income levels and communities in the country.
In the year and a half since the COVID-19 pandemic, the world has seen shutdowns and stay-at-home orders, higher cleanliness levels and public distancing. Still, certain countries, including India, have been far more impacted by the pandemic than others.
Victims to Covid-19 being cremated in India. Source: BBC.
News dominating much of the current headlines has been centered on the Delta variant of COVID-19, which originated from India, and since then, another variant known as Delta Plus has also taken hold. According to officials from WHO, the variants are considered to be more lethal due to the higher rates of transmissibility between individuals.
India has had nearly 30 million cases of COVID-19 and nearly 400 thousand deaths since the beginning of the pandemic. The pandemic has severely hit more vulnerable and crowded populations who have neither space to socially distance nor proper health care, revealing disparities across income. In the past few months, the country has experienced a severe wave of cases and deaths, with thousands of people dying every day.
The 30,000 children who were orphaned, abandoned or left only one parent reveals how many of the individuals who passed away were also caretakers. News articles have also detailed how an accurate number of deaths can be difficult to ascertain, and it is likely that the numbers are higher, as the burned bodies of people in the streets of New Delhi to the water burials in more rural areas made headlines.
With many parents and families being left affected by the pandemic, there have been worries that children may be left vulnerable and at greater risk of danger. Some of the expressed concerns are related to both work and sex trafficking, as well as neglect and abuse. According to the National Crime Records Bureau, trafficking is a major concern: a child disappears every 8 minutes in India. There have also been numerous cases of young girls from low-income backgrounds being misled about job opportunities, and as a result, they are sold into sex exploitative practices or into sweatshops for labor purposes. In addition, social media posts have circulated, advertising illegal adoptions. These posts are illegal as they are not official adoption procedures, increasing the risk of danger for the children.
According to the BBC, India has some of the strictest laws concerning adoption, with there being a child protection and welfare commission in every state. As a result, India has an adoption rate of only 3,351 children per year, a remarkably low rate for its population size.
The Indian government has worked on formulating a plan to assist the orphans left abandoned as a result of the pandemic. India’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, shared that funds of approximately $13,970 will become available to every orphaned child. They’ll be able to access this money through stipends when they are 18-23 years old.
Although funding has been set aside for children, child care institutions still envision obstacles. These institutions are concerned that financial assistance will not be enough to support the newly orphaned, and that many financial packages never reach beneficiaries in the first place because of unawareness of eligibility and a complicated retrieval process.
Given the devastation brought on by the pandemic, it is difficult to determine what will be the final number of orphans in India as deaths continue to rise. The recovery period in the months and years to come will rely on the efficiency of their government and sufficient services created and accessible for children in need.
As the transmission levels still pose a risk, especially to those who remain unvaccinated, it is crucial that anyone who has knowingly been exposed to a person positive for COVID-19 remains in quarantine. With many of the guidelines regarding mask usage being relaxed, it is important that people are vaccinated in order to limit the spread and to lower the severity of the effects of the virus itself.
“COVID: Thousands of Indian Children Orphaned by Pandemic.” Deutsche Welle, June 1, 2021. https://www.dw.com/en/covid-thousands-of-indian-children-orphaned-by-pandemic/a-57742069.
Clarance, Andrew, and Vikas Pandey Pandey . “Coronavirus: The Indian Children Orphaned by Covid-19.” BBC News. BBC, May 30, 2021. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-57264629.
“Over 30,000 Children Orphaned, Lost a Parent or Abandoned Due to Covid-19, NCPCR Tells SC.” The Economic Times, June 7, 2021. https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/india/over-30000-children-orphaned-lost-a-parent-or-abandoned-due-to-covid-19-ncpcr-tells-sc/articleshow/83308281.cms.
“Stolen Lives and Innocence: A Human Rights Tragedy.” The Statesman, September 29, 2020. https://www.thestatesman.com/features/stolen-lives-innocence-human-rights-tragedy-1502926852.html.
Al Jazeera. “COVID Causes Orphan Crisis in INDIA; Experts Fear Neglect, Abuse.” Al Jazeera. Al Jazeera, May 20, 2021. https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/5/20/covid-causes-orphan-crisis-in-india-experts-fear-neglect-abuse.