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Why children are in constant fear and anger in Covid-19 times

Children across economic and social profiles are suffers of COVID-19 pandemic but the problems of economically marginalized and street children are unimaginable.

Dr. Manju PanwarDr. Manju Panwar | Updated: 24-06-2020 08:42 IST | Created: 19-06-2020 00:07 IST
Why children are in constant fear and anger in Covid-19 times
Image Credit: Pexels

Children are important assets in all societies. Though every year of a child's life is precious, the first five years are very crucial because the basics of cognitive, social, emotional, physical, motor, and psychological development are laid down at this stage. There is no doubt that children are the most vulnerable in any crisis but the sad part is that they do not have much say in the political system. According to an assessment of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in April, 8.6 percent of COVID-19 positive cases in India are individuals within the age group of 0-20 years. Considering the COVID-19 risk to the children, the healthcare workers across the world have been advised to be more vigilant for the patients under the age group of less than 19. It is quite difficult to gauge the bad impact of COVID-19 on children be it emotional, health, education, and many other ways.

Impact on Behaviour of the children

Due to the uncertainty of COVID-19, children are in constant fear and anger. Remaining out of the school for so long, have made them restless and reduced their physical activities. The physical (social) distancing has made them alone and irritable in this crisis as they are not able to visit their grandparents, extended family members, and family tours as they used to do during their previous summer vacations. Many organizations working in this area have concluded that manifestation of COVID-19 is manifold as children are in constant emotional turmoil and experiencing many emotions such as anxiety, depression, prolonged crying, sad and unstable appetite. However, the family is the custodian of providing love and care to the children but in the present critical time, parents are busy in their own affairs and finding less time to be with the children. The compulsion of being inside the homes has created pressure on them to be more disciplined and hooked up with screen - television, computer, laptop, and mobile - either for online learning or entertainment and play.

Malnutrition and children

Eradicating child malnutrition is an important component of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Messages are flashed on television channels and social media every day depicting the importance of building strong immunity in order to fight with COVID-19 infection. But, the million-dollar question is how the children who are deprived of two meal food will be able to achieve immunity? There are millions of children who are suffering from food insecurity and may sleep without food. It is unfortunate that children belonging to the vulnerable section of the society are more prone to get infected with the coronavirus as they are malnourished. According to the State of the World's Children 2019, UNICEF reported that 69 percent of the death of the children below the age of five in India is due to the malnutrition. It further mentions that every second child in that age group is affected by some form of malnutrition. Anaemia is the most prevalent in children under the age of five years. The data states that children under the age of five years are affected by micronutrient deficiencies. While every fifth child under the age of five is a Vitamin A deficient, one in every third baby has Vitamin B12 deficiency, and two out of every five children are anaemic. The problem of malnutrition has become more acute due to Covid-19 as poor children are not getting sufficient food to eat, resulting in poor brain development, low immunity, increased infections, and death in some cases.

Attempts made so far to mitigate malnutrition

In order to arrest the problem of malnutrition among the children, apart from the initiatives taken by both Central and State governments, international organizations like the World Bank, UNICEF, Care India, USAID, and others have been assisting to improve the condition of the children. POSHAN Abhiyaan or the National Nutrition Mission is one such example which has a key role in improving nutrition indicators across India. The Anaemia Mukt Bharat program has been appraised as one of the best programs implemented by governments across the world to address malnutrition.

Improving the health of children is also a constitutional responsibility of the government as Article 47 of the Constitution of India states that "the state regard raising the level of nutrition and standard of living of its people and important in public health among its primary duties". Realizing the importance of nutritious food on 8th March 2018, the Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched Poshan Abhiyaan from Jhunjhunu district in Rajasthan to reduce the level of stunting, under-nutrition, anaemia and low birth weight in children, and also to focus on the nutrition of adolescent girls, pregnant women, and lactating mothers. Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS), is one of the world's largest and unique programs for early childhood care and development.

But due to the COVID-19 pandemic, these programs have almost paralyzed. The food supplies to the Anganwadi centers have collapsed due to lockdown. There is a fear that if the proper nutrition food is not made available to expecting mothers and kids, there will be a spike in the malnutrition-related cases in women and children. This will lead to a bigger health crisis.

Family Violence and children

As schools are shut down for more than three months, children spend their maximum time in their homes than usual, due to which they have become the easy targets for domestic violence abusers. Government's helpline for children (1098) is the testimony of this as a total of 4.6 lakh calls received during the first phase of a nationwide lockdown, out of which 30 percent required COVID-19 related intervention but 9,385 of these calls were cries for help by children who were being subjected to physical, emotional or sexual abuse, or being trafficked, or abandoned.

Closing of Child Rehabilitation Centres

Closing of child rehabilitation centers is another challenge faced by both children and their parents. CRCs are the panacea for poor parents as they have hope that at least their children are safe and getting food at proper times. But this hope has been snatched by COVID-19. As per the report published in 2019 by the Jena Committee on Child Care Institutions (CCIs), there were about 1.8 lakh children from such poor vulnerable backgrounds living in these institutions during the period of 2016-2017 in India. But due to the COVID-19 lockdown declared in the month of March this year, the majority of the children were sent back to their homes. It is a sorry state of affairs that children belonging to the marginalized section of the society are left on their fate.

Street children and COVID-19

The condition of street children has become bad to worse during the pandemic. It is unfortunate that street children are not counted in census because of which it is not possible to get their exact numbers. Many of them neither have Aaadhar cards nor voter identity cards which disable their national identity. According to the survey conducted by 'Save the Children,' there are about 2 million street children in India but child rights activists are of the opinion that the number of street children is higher than this and it might have increased due to the current pandemic. There is no denying that street children are exploited in normal times, but they are now more vulnerable to all kinds of exploitation including sexual exploitation and trafficking. The street girls may be sexually abused and forced into prostitution. The more worrying factor is estimates of a spike in a number of child labor and child marriage in post-COVID-19. These street children may also be trapped by gangs involved in organ trafficking, drug smuggling, and other illegal activities.

Conclusion

It is said that the future of tomorrow is in the hands of children. But they can shape the future only if their own future is safe and they are healthy. They must be given adequate nutrition and health care facilities. It is paramount to pay special attention to the children in present times of COVID-19 in order to keep boredom among children at bay, it is also important that they must be engaged in physical, music and other innovative activities. Their fears and concerns related to COVID-19 must be addressed through proper communication between parents and children through a positive and conducive environment. There is a need that all the important stakeholders like teachers, parents, social workers, counselors, and executives work in tandem to cope with the challenge posed by COVID-19.

Dr. Manju Panwar is the Chairperson of the Department of Social Work, B.P.S Women's University, Khanpur Kalan, Sonipat, Haryana.

(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed are the personal views of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of Devdiscourse and Devdiscourse does not claim any responsibility for the same.)


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