Bal Raksha Bharat has been working among marginalised communities in Kolkata, India, to ensure quality education to children. As the second wave of COVID-19 came in like a tsunami in the City of Joy, children in communities needed immediate care beyond just education.
Amid this unfortunate situation, Jayoti Das*, a young housewife of a city slum, complained of bouts of fever and throat infections. Her children, 9-year-old Kushal* and 10- year-old Preeti*, who are in Grade three and four respectively, had reached out to one of our frontline workers who extends academic support in their school, to seek help for their mother. They were unable to understand why their mother’s condition was rapidly deteriorating. The father of the children runs a small shop earning INR 6,500 a month, which is too meagre an amount even to feed his family, let alone afford healthcare.
Our frontline worker requested the local clinic to extend proper treatment following Jayoti’s check-up. But the medico had insisted on a COVID positive test, which was needed for any life-saving treatment like oxygen. Despite being admitted and given oxygen support at the insistence of our frontline worker, she succumbed to the disease, as they had waited too long.
“COVID-19 pandemic has ruined children’s lives in so many different ways that it has set an entire generation back decades. These two kids require immediate care and protection. Their father remains away from them, busy with his work, and there is no one to care of them. Currently, the schools are closed, and they were left hungry when we found them in the absence of mid-day meals. One can only imagine how many such children are dying just because their caregiver succumbs to covid. We have to try and expand our reach”, said Ashis Roy, Assistant Manager, Education, West Bengal.
This has been the case with lakhs of people in India for the past one and half years due to a severe lack of awareness of COVID-19, coupled with failing health systems. Mothers like Jayoti* die with multi-organ failure and non-availability of oxygen.
As she was COVID positive, her children were not allowed to pay their last tribute to their mother. They were inconsolable as they reached out to our academic support fellow.
Kushal, the younger sibling, does not know what to do in their mother’s absence, while Preeti, who is one year older than him, is in a state of shock. This took place around the same time as Cyclone Yaas made landfall in West Bengal, which also destroyed their father’s shop, the family’s main source of income.
Presently with the closure of schools, they are outside the ambit of the protection circle. This sudden loss of their mother has pushed the two children to the brink, every one of their rights stands compromised.
*Names changed to ensure protection to children
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