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Orphaned, abandoned children in child care homes turn to caregivers for support

PTI | New Delhi | Updated: 15-05-2020 12:31 IST | Created: 15-05-2020 12:31 IST
Orphaned, abandoned children in child care homes turn to caregivers for support

Rokiya Khatun starts her day by taking a round of 15 child care homes in Kolkata that shelter several orphaned and abandoned children. She conducts a quick health check of the children and gives them medicines, if required. Khatun is one of the caregivers, who is nurturing many orphaned and abandoned children during the period of lockdown imposed in view of the coronavirus crisis.

Having worked as a general duty assistant in a nursing home prior to joining the SOS Children's Villages of India, Khatun helps in looking after small medical needs of the children. "I look after the medical aspects (of the children). When one of the girls returned after hospitalisation, I started visiting her twice on a daily basis to make sure that she was taking medicines on time. I also do the dressing of one of the boys whose foot was amputated," she said. Khatun also pitches in the community kitchen work. Another caregiver, who is trying to make a difference in the life of many children under institutional care,is village nurse Chaya Bora, who travels 3 km everyday to reach a child care home in Hojai in Assam.

"When the lockdown was imposed, I was given the option to remain with my family, but my anxiety for the wellness of children motivated me to travel to the home and monitor their health on a day-to-day basis," she said. Caregivers across many homes are also devising ways to keep the children engaged during the lockdown period.

Kasthuri, a caregiver in Chennai, is keeping the children engaged through yoga and meditation. "With no school and no outdoor activities, children in the village are more into indoor activities. In this situation, I thought of meditation and yoga as a way to ensure both physical and mental well-being of the children," she said. There are 32 SOS villages in 22 states across the country. Each village has 10-12 houses in which children live with their caregivers.

Parvathi, a caregiver, at an SOS Village in Kerala has taken the initiative of doing meditation with children for five to ten minutes a day. "To have peace of mind in such times is essential. It is evident that many of us tend to feel anxious and nervous because of remaining indoors for long hours," she said.  She said children are also kept engaged in various activities such as gardening and beautifying the home with art and craft. SOS Children's Villages of India look after 16,700 orphaned and abandoned children.

Sudarshan Suchi, Secretary-General, SOS Children's Villages of India, said the coronavirus crisis has proved to be particularly challenging for child care homes. "Coronavirus has triggered a funding crisis for NGOs when it is most needed. The need of funds to combat the coronavirus is an emerging reality. Donations are the urgent need of the hour for the purchase of hygiene products that have become more expensive, such as gloves and disinfectants, as well as technical equipment and laptops to impart lessons to children," he said.

He said community-level welfare projects carried out by NGOs have been seriously affected by spread of coronavirus. "As a result, all the beneficial impact of these services on the participants and final beneficiaries are gradually disappearing," he said. Prabhat Kumar, Deputy Director - Child Protection, Save the Children, said children in child care institutions are one of the most vulnerable ones and the biggest challenge during the period of lockdown has been to take support from outside like counselling facilities which were available remotely through video conference. "We drafted guidelines for state governments on how to conduct activities with children through digital medium, how to ensure social distancing and mental health services," he said. He said recreational facilities due to to limited infrastructure and resources is another challenge.

"Another challenge has been that linkage services have not been working. Many children in observation homes were receiving educational services and professional services from outside but now those linkage facilities have completely stopped post lockdown," he said. India is currently under the biggest lockdown with around 1.3 billion people asked to stay home in view of the coronavirus outbreak..


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