The Karnataka government on May 18 announced a slew of children-specific measures for the first time in COVID-19 management in the state. Woman and Child Welfare Minister Shashikala Jolle said the government will set up rehabilitation centres for orphans and pediatric COVID Care Centres in all districts. The minister said an action plan has been formulated to cater to children in four scenariosâ€” both parents are deceased, both parents hospitalized, one parent deceased and the other hospitalised, one parent is hospitalized and other is out of station. IAS officer Mohan Raj has been appointed the nodal officer for this initiative. Jolle also warned that people should not fall for rumours and illegally adopt children without government intervention.
This comes after the Child Right Commission in Karnataka on May 12 wrote to the state government to take holistic measures to safeguard children fearing that the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic will impact children more than ever before. A letter written by Father Anthony Sebastian, the Chairperson of the Commission, said that the pandemic has already seen many children orphaned due to the death of parents even though the percentage of children contracting the infection remains low as of now.
The Commission had suggested a slew of measures that the government takes to deal with the crisis adequately. Among other suggestions, the letter asked for a task force to be created consisting of paediatrics and mental health professionals like therapists and neurosurgeons. Among non-medical interventions, the Commission wanted the government to increase interventions to stop child trafficking of those children who have lost parents to the virus.
Here is what the commission had recommended to the government:
1. In order to avoid the increasing number of children affected, the medical infrastructure required for the betterment of the safety and health of the child must be carefully and effectively established. Therefore, essential medical aid should be provided. Deploy a task force for the same.
2. Isolation centres for kids should be made available and there should be infrastructure and systems in place for the kids testing COVID-19 positive. These centres should have all facilities.
3. Reservation of minimum and fixed number of beds for children infected in all district and government-run and private hospitals
4. Create quota sources for relevant District Officers' studies
5. To work with the state's paediatrician and specialist on the cost of treating infected children, the necessary equipment and procedures, and the provision of such facilities should be immediately prepared.
6. There are many cases of children becoming orphaned due to the death of infected parents. However, the protection of such children is difficult because of the coronary practice and the possibility of child trafficking and abuse. These children should be brought before the child welfare committee and legal action should be taken. Children should be protected from Illegal adoption and abuse. These children are more likely to be infected and many children suffer from psychological trauma, such as lack of appropriate treatment and counselling. Education for these children should be made available to the public. State Level and District Level Uplifting Committees should be constituted.
7. For the treatment of these children, Maharashtra-style hospitals have to be opened and medical facilities provided.
8. It is requested to implement the above recommendations with a view to safeguarding children's constitutional rights and the constitutional right to life.
Expert view on childrenâ€™s vulnerability
â€śWe should expect more children to get infected in the third wave. There are only two ways to get immunityâ€” one is by vaccination and another is if you get COVID (People develop antibodies via natural infection),â€ť Dr V Ravi, veteran virologist and part of Karnatakaâ€™s Technical Advisory Committee told TNM. â€śIn the first and second waves, the number of children infected was very low. And right now, there is no vaccine for children, so common sense tells us that children will be more vulnerable and susceptible to infection in the third wave,â€ť he added.