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Andhra sets up homes for children whose parents are isolated or dead due to Covid

Originally for children with special needs, the Bukkarayasamudram school now has a different function – to look after children whose parents or guardians have tested Covid positive and are in hospital or at isolation centres, and for those whose parents or guardians have died of the virus.

On May 13, three siblings whose parents tested Covid positive were brought to a residential school at Bukkarayasamudram village in Anantapur Mandal in Anantapur district.

“The youngest of the three kids is a 3-year-old girl. Her sister is 5 and her brother is 12. Their parents are presently under treatment at a Covid hospital at Anantapur. We are making all efforts to make them comfortable here and provide whatever they want. They will be given counselling every day,” said Childline Coordinator K Krishnamachari.

Originally for children with special needs, the Bukkarayasamudram school now has a different function – to look after children whose parents or guardians have tested Covid positive and are in hospital or at isolation centres, and for those whose parents or guardians have died of the virus.

Another such institute has been set up at Rajamahendravaram in East Godavari district. Here, two boys aged 12 and 14 were shifted from their houses on Thursday. “The parents of both boys are in hospital undergoing Covid-19 treatment. They are talking to their parents over video calls… Apart from food and shelter here we will take care of their mental well being by providing counselling,” an official said.

The facilities at Bukkarayasamudram and Rajamahendravaram are two of 32 child care institutions established by the Andhra Pradesh government across the 13 districts of the states to look after children orphaned or separated from their parents due to the virus.

“Covid-19 is causing havoc, and the threat of contacting the virus or succumbing to it is constant. In difficult times like these, finding a helping hand can be a herculean task, especially when it comes to children and their care and protection. The government of Andhra Pradesh has taken the initiative to set up 32 child care institutions (CCI) designated for those children whose parents or guardians have either contracted the virus and need medical assistance, or who have lost their lives to it,” Health Minister A K Krishna Srinivas told The Indian Express.

There are no official figures but there are at least 130 children who have been orphaned due to Covid-19. “It is a rough estimate. During family tragedies, relatives often take away the children of the suffering family. We think the number of children orphaned or abandoned during this second wave is phenomenal. You will find more children on the streets now,” said an official of a leading NGO for children.

Health Minister Srinivas said Andhra Pradesh is the first state to set up institutions to care for children of Covid-affected families, despite the number of children currently facing this plight in the state is significantly low. “Our government anticipated this and established these child care institutions well in advance as a lot of parents are testing positive together,” he said.

“This proactive initiative ensures that no child is abandoned. The child will receive proper care and attention. These institutions will provide nutritious food, shelter, and education to these children. For assistance pertaining to these centres, two helpline numbers – 181 and 1098 — have been set up,” he said.

Director of Women and Child Welfare Department Krithika Batra said if any child or guardian in need of assistance contacts the helpline numbers, the district level teams will be sent to the residence of the child and transport the child to the nearest child care institution.

Based on the preference of the child, they will be handed over either to the kinship care of a suitable guardian, or the child will be moved to the adoption framework.

Giving the example of the three siblings in Anantapur, an official said, “The parents of the three children had tested positive. The father was first moved to government hospital in Anantapur and a day later the mother tested positive and she was also admitted to the same hospital in a critical condition.

“The parents called their relatives for help to take care of their children but none turned up. After we took permission from the parents, the District Child Protection Officer admitted the three children at the child care institute,” the official said.

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