Besides causing thousands of deaths every day, the ferocious second wave of COVID-19 in India is also causing another catastrophe, as children rendered orphans are left vulnerable to human trafficking and abuse, the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) said on Friday.
In the last 24 hours, the Asian country – now the epicenter of the global outbreak – recorded 414,188 new daily cases, which is the highest daily case count ever recorded by any country. In the same period, there were 3,915 deaths reported.
UNICEF said the current is almost four times the size of the first wave, and the virus is spreading much faster.
The loss of lives has left many children without their parents and caregivers, leaving a strain on public health and social measures on children.
“Children are losing parents and caregivers to the virus leaving many of them destitute, without parental care,” said Dr. Yasmin Ali Haque, the UNICEF representative in India.
“While there isn’t enough data yet, we can see that illegal adoption pleas have surfaced on social media, making these orphans vulnerable to trafficking and abuse. UNICEF is calling for greater efforts to safeguard these orphans. We need to promote kinship care, family tracing, enhance functionaries and accelerate the sponsorship of destitute families.”
By Monday India had reported a total of 21,491,598 COVID-19 infections with 234,083 deaths.
The country’s caseload is only shadowed by the United States’ tally which currently stands at 32,605,487 infections.
On the other hand, India’s death toll is the third-highest globally, after the U.S. and Brazil.
As efforts continue to contain the situation, UNHCR is also wary of other impacts the pandemic will have on children, including constrained access to essential health, social, protection and education services.
“Children are facing mental health issues and are at greater risk of violence, as lockdowns shut them off from their vital support networks,” said Haque.
“They are missing out on life-saving routine immunization, critical care and treatment for pneumonia and other diseases.”
The Asian country has rolled out a mass vaccination drive, but people have been urged to continue observing the laid down health protocols to avoid contracting the disease.
“Vaccines are no silver bullet. We still need to wear masks, maintain hand hygiene and practice physical distancing,” said Haque.