Helplines flooded with calls as kids lose parents to Covid in Karnataka | Bengaluru News – Times of India

BENGALURU: With Covid deaths rising in the state, especially of those below 50 years, child helplines and NGOs are getting calls from relatives of children who have either been orphaned or lost a parent. The authorities are scrambling to initiate measures to take care of such children, reports Sruthy Susan Ullas.
“On Saturday, we heard of a 12-yearold boy from Summanahalli who lost both parents to the virus. On Sunday, another such case was flagged off from Whitefield. We’re discussing how to handle these cases. Many childcare institutions had closed on the government’s directions during the pandemic to send children back to their parents if the conditions are conducive. We’re checking if they can reopen and accommodate these children,” said Antony Sebastian, chairperson, Karnataka State Protection of Child Rights.
Nagasimha G Rao, director, Child Rights Trust, said he received two similar phone calls recently.
Kids below five do not understand concept of death: Doc
One was from a mother who lost her husband, a daily-wage labourer and bread-winner. They wanted food and counselling. A grandmother called for her grand-daughter who lost both parents. She said she’s in no position to look after the girl.”
In some cases, relatives find it difficult to reach out to children because of the lockdown or children themselves testing positive. “The kids are at a loss to understand what’s happening and need counselling,” Rao added.
Whitefield Rising, the citizens’ movement, faced two situations on Saturday and Sunday. A member said: “On Saturday, we heard of a father who had passed away, mother was admitted to a hospital and their child was suspected positive. A neighbour finally took her in. On Sunday, we were told of an older, autistic child whose parents are in hospital. We issued an advisory that parents must plan for who will take care of their kids if they fall ill. Note down all information that the caretaker needs to know about the child — allergies, medication, likes and dislikes. Have a conversation with children about the plans.”
There are also social media requests for breast milk from lactating mothers following the death of biological mothers. The women and child welfare department said while one helpline number (1098) is working 24/7, it will get the other helpline (14499, that’s currently open from 8am to 8pm) to operate round the clock.
“We’ll ask all district children protection centres to notify one centre to immediately shelter children who have lost one or both parents,” said Anuradha KN, director, women and child welfare department. She added that cases brought to their notice through newspapers or otherwise have been taken care of.
The government has created a new team for child protection. “In our WhatsApp groups of NGOs and civil societies, we started noticing cases where children needed help — some alone at home as parents were hospitalised or those who lost a parent, among others. We started a group on WhatsApp exclusively for child protection and has experts, including specialists in mental health and child welfare and officials from the government and Unicef,” said Uma Mahadevan, principal secretary, panchayati raj, who coordinates with civil society on needs during the pandemic.
Dr John Vijay Sagar, head of child and adolescent psychiatry, Nimhans, said children also experience grief like elders but it’s manifested in different ways depending on age and developmental stage.
“Unlike the first wave, mortality rate in the second wave is high. The likelihood of children encountering death of one parent (mostly), or both, or other caregivers like grandparents is high this time. Unlike a chronic disease they battle, death comes suddenly in the family, mostly in two weeks of contracting the virus,” explained Dr John.
“Children below the age of five do not understand the concept of death — its finality or irreversible nature. However, they’re aware of the loss. Some cry, throw tantrums and sometimes have regressive behaviour,” he said.
Dr John said it’s advisable for the surviving parent or elders to moderately express their grief and important to clarify doubts about death in simple terms. “… If emotional or behavioural issues persist for more than a month, professional help should be sought,” the doctor said.

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Sagar Biswas

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