By Arpana Adhikari Kathmandu, Sept. 14: A three-year-old boy Prabin (name changed) of Dolakha and his seven-, 11- and 15-year-old sisters lost their mother, who was their only caretaker in the family, to COVID-19. Their father had died some time before the pandemic hit the country, leaving the mother to raise the four children. Unfortunately, in the first wave of the pandemic, Prabin and his three siblings lost their mother to COVID-19 infection. Following the death of their mother, Prabin and his siblings have been left in the lurch as they have no one to look after.
With no one from their relatives coming forward to take the responsibility of raising them, they are now sheltered in SOS Children’s Village, Kavre, said Deepa Oli, a communication officer of SOS. According to Oli, there were some other children who came into their contact and they were preparing to adopt as many as 500 children from across the country, who lost their parents in the pandemic. This is just a single of several hundred cases of COVID-19 reducing children to orphans in the country.
The COVID-19 pandemic, which has devastated families across Nepal, has left hundreds of children orphaned or without parental care. Because the COVID-19 death occurs among adults and older population across the country, this tragic result of high adult morbidity has left many children orphaned, without parents, grandparents or primary caregivers. According to National Child Rights Council (NCRC), under the Ministry of Women, Children and Senior Citizen (MoWCSC), as many as 233 children across the country lost either one or both parents, or a custodian or a co-residing grandparent.
Namuna Bhusal, chief of child protection division at NCRC, said the data submitted by 34 local bodies till Monday showed that more than 233 children across the country have lost their parents or guardianship to COVID-19. “Of them, 16 children have lost both the parents, while others have lost either father or mother or their primary caretaker,” said Bhusal. According to her, 70 children of Sudurpaschim Province, 44 of Lumbini Province, 22 of Karnali Province, 29 of Gandaki Province, 28 of Bagmati Province, 30 of Province 2 and 10 children of Province 1 were orphaned during the pandemic.
However, Bhusal said that the numbers are likely to be higher because the local bodies continue to submit the data. Bhusal said the NCRC had asked the local levels to provide the details of the children, who have been orphaned, abandoned or those in vulnerable state due to the pandemic. Commenting on the rising concerns about orphaned children who have nowhere to go, Secretary at the MoWCSC Yam Kumari Khatiwada said the government would take the responsibility of the children whose parents died as a result of the virus or by any other reason.
Khatiwada said the government would support such children even if they have relatives. “We will provide support for education and health of the child along with livelihood support to the family members,” she added. Khatiwada said if there is no one to look after the child, then he/she would be sheltered at child care homes, which are listed by the government and provide them with all kinds of support.