The Pandemic and subsequent lockdowns have significantly impacted children’s social and psychological development than adults. Most responses to Covid-19 primarily address adult needs. Have we, then, neglected the concerns of children during the Pandemic?
The Impact on Children
Several recent studies point to the long-term effect of Covid-19 on children, both directly and indirectly. Firstly, all children ‘are susceptible to severe psychological conditions such as irritability and inattention‘. Additionally, younger children may suffer from uncertainty, fear and isolation due to news of death and rise in infection rates.
Secondly, the economic downturn has further widened the gap between rich and poor. Children in families with no source of income face acute poverty, deprivation, and malnutrition. Thirdly, Children face an increased risk of exploitation, violence and abuse. Since the lockdown, there has been a 50 per cent increase in the calls received on the India helpline for children.
Fourthly, the closures of schools and restriction of movement have disrupted Education, physical activities and social support. Further, online classes have contributed to the compulsive use of the Internet among children. Fifthly, the opportunity for online classes is not entirely available to underprivileged children. As a result, they are likely to face a lack of motivation and interest to pursue Education. This may further push children into child labour.
Sixthly, girls from underprivileged families have little or no access to gadgets. This may seriously affect their presence in Education. Digital platforms can significantly increase school dropout among girls. Finally, several children have been orphaned at a very young age due to the growing number of Covid-19 deaths. In many instances, there is no one left to take care of them. As a result, children without parents or guardians are vulnerable to abuse and exploitation.
The Neglect of Children
Sadly, children are never the focus of our Covid Response. As a result, children’s social, physical, psychological, and spiritual needs are routinely neglected. Children need care, financial sustenance and above all, protection. However, Children are not the direct beneficiaries of most schemes announced by the Government at all. Many deserving families have no respite due to lack of access and endemic corruption. Worse, even those schemes that could indirectly benefit children appear to be compromised.
The Role of the Church
The neglect of children in COVID relief is a serious concern. There is an urgent need for a policy to institute childcare and protection at the National level. The Church also needs to be involved in caring for the needs of children across the country. It is estimated that at least 30,000 children (between 0-17 age) require immediate care and protection.
If there is systemic neglect of children, should we not take up the concern of children as disciples of Jesus? We who claim to serve the One who came to serve should hear the cries of these hapless children.
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