New Delhi. May 06, 2021:
India continues to witness a surge in COVID-19 cases, with an increasing number of fatalities reported from all corners of the nation. While the surmounting death toll has impacted numerous lives, it has impacted children the most, who have either lost a parent or have their primary caregivers in the hospital.
Though there is no accurate data available for the impact on children, the number of daily deaths indicates an increasing number of children have lost their immediate parent, guardian or families. This is validated by a surge in SOS calls/appeals made to teams of Save the Children, other government helplines and social media. From Save the Children’s years of experience, a substantial rise in child abandonment, trafficking and abuse cases is often seen as a fall out for any humanitarian disaster. The COVID-19 crisis is no different and is India’s most significant medical humanitarian disasters in recent times. In addition to the rise in the number of on-ground cases, the charity has also observed several posts on social media that contain messages on orphaned children for adoptions being shared widely, sometimes with the child’s face or location details. These messages give child traffickers and other harmful social elements easy access to the child and could cause potential harm. As recently stressed by the Hon’ble Minister of Women and Child Development Smt Smriti Irani, it is our legal responsibility to inform local authorities when we know of any such cases.
Talking about this rise, Prabhat Kumar, Deputy Director- Child Protection, Save the Children, India, said, “While we all want to help and contribute towards the rehabilitation of the child, we must refrain from posting any specific details like the child’s name, photo, contact number or location on social media. Posting these details would allow rogue elements to access information to carry forward detrimental actions towards the child. We must immediately call Childline 1098 and register; we can also inform the local police by calling 100 or the district child welfare committees. Our one and single action should be ensuring institutional reporting of the case, even if we find something similar on social media.”
(Photo: From Save the Children’s social media where they spread awareness on the correct practices to follow while sharing information.)
In addition to advocating for safe reporting, Save the Children has initiated ground programming in 57 districts across 12 states and 2 UTs, aiming to strengthen and support existing child protection mechanisms. Their outreach programmes and surveillance mechanism will ensure that orphaned or semi-orphaned children do not fall prey to human trafficking rackets.
To tackle child protection issues on the ground, they have adopted a comprehensive action plan that involves various district child welfare committees and the district child protection unit that Save the Children regularly engages with and supports in handholding and training. They will also activate children’s groups at the village level who emerge as young warriors and raise children’s issues during such crisis.
“We must build support and work with the various SCPCRs, CWCs, DCPUs and children’s groups as these committees and groups can reach the most disadvantaged communities and hold the key to ensuring India can protect the last child,” Kumar added.
The action plan aims at identifying, linking and referring all cases of a child in need of care and protection to relevant government authorities and statutory structures such as CHILDLINE- 1098, National/State Commission for Protection of Child Rights-18001212830, Police-100 and District Child Protection Units.
In collaboration with these child protection committees, groups and nodal bodies, Save the Children will conduct outreach and surveillance programmes and ensure any cases of children being orphaned or trafficked find immediate action. Additionally, we are raising awareness online and within the communities on the importance of Childline 1098. At a community level, our teams regularly liaise and collaborate with the Childline teams to manage any child protection case.
To cover all aspects of the impact of COVID-19 on children, Save the Children has launched an immediate response to reach 10 Lakh children and caregivers in 57 districts across 12 states and 2 UTs and have launched a website www.childrenincovid.in to raise awareness and funds for this critical response.
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Save the Children works across 12 states of India and in 120 countries on issues related to education, health, and protection and humanitarian/DRR needs of children, especially those who are the most deprived and marginalized.