Increasing number of children orphaned by Covid-19 ring alarm bells in India

By David Asta Alares

New Delhi, May 14 (EFE).- A large number of children have been orphaned after losing their parents to a devastating second wave of the coronavirus that has gripped India, raising concerns among experts over their vulnerability to child trafficking.

The situation has been highlighted with an increasing number of messages for adoption on social media in the country.

“For Adoption: If anyone wishes to adopt a girl (…) One girl is 3 days old and another is 6 months old, they have lost their parents recently due to Covid. Please help these kids get a new life, spread the word,” read one of the many such messages that have appeared on Twitter in recent weeks.

“URGENT: A mother has passed away from Covid. We need breast milk for the baby. She is in NICU. Her daily requirement is 100 ml,” tweeted Sania Ahmed, calling out to any “mother/milk bank based out of Delhi here who can help.”

Within hours, the situation was resolved thanks to help from multiple donors.

The second wave of the coronavirus, which has caused the collapse of the country’s healthcare system, has ravaged the Asian country with record number of daily cases in recent weeks.

India on Friday surpassed 24 million total infections since the start of the pandemic, and has recorded 4,000 or more daily deaths in the last three days, according to official figures, while experts believe the actual toll to be significantly higher.

“Now there is a new situation where the people are dying, so many children have become orphaned,” Dhananjay Tingal, the executive director of the nonprofit Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA, Movement to Save Children) run by Nobel Peace laureate Kailash Satyarthi, told EFE.

BBA started to take note of the magnitude of the tragedy around mid-April.

“There are two calls which came in. One was a child whose family had died because of Covid. And the child himself was Covid positive. And the other one was for a brother and sister whose parents had got Covid,” said Tingal.

The problem faced by these children from disadvantaged families in the rural areas was that, in both cases, there was no one closeby willing to take care of them for fear of contracting the disease.

This led BBA to start a helpline to for similar cases, and since then it has been receiving close to 70 calls everyday.

Tingal revealed that “in about 10 percent of such cases, the child has become orphaned and about 10 to 15 percent are where one parent or family member has died and the children are suffering.”

The nonprofit alerts the authorities if case of the need to initiate a legal procedures for adoption.

However, the emergence of desperate calls for adoption on social media have unsettled experts and the authorities, who point out that this is an illegal practice.

“It’s very possible that they might be trying to sell that child to somebody,” said Tingal, who acknowledged that in most cases they are likely to be well-intentioned people who are unaware of the legalities of the adoption process in India.

Beyond the world of social media, the number of minors trafficked has increased, according to BBA, which rescued some 7,700 children nationwide between Apr.1, 2020 and Mar.21, 2021.

The situation has worsened with the pandemic because of the strict countrywide lockdown imposed in March last year, which left millions of migrant workers in large cities jobless.

Rising poverty has made children “an easy prey for traffickers,” said Tingal. The situation has been aggravated by the closure of schools.

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