NEW DELHI: Since the lock down kicked in, “Childline 1098” – the 24×7 helpline across 569 districts for children in distress has seen a spike in calls. Nearly 3 lakh callers have reached out to the helpline as against the weekly average of about 2 lakh calls received by the helpline call centres.
Besides the daily case load of calls related to matters like violence, abuse, stress, runaway and missing children, the Childline has been getting a lot of calls from people seeking information on Corona virus, around 8 to 10 callers daily seeking help for sick children citing their fears of Covid-19 like symptoms and poor people seeking food for themselves and their hungry children.
Joining the fight against Covid-19, Childline India Foundation, the nodal agency of the ministry of women and child development managing and operating the 1098 service through NGOs on ground, has been reaching out to callers reporting hunger with food, transporting those who seek help to take sick child in a child care institution or anywhere elsewhere to a health facility. Also the call centres have been given a detailed protocol to respond to callers seeking information about coronavirus.
“For cases where people are calling to seek transportation help and medical help for a child sharing their fears of Covid-19 like symptoms, the teams on ground are taking all precautions and involving health workers and district authorities to escort a child to a health facility. There have been 8 to 10 such calls a day pertaining to children who needed medical assistance where Childline services were pressed into action to connect children with health practitioners and hospitals,” Childline officials shared. For families calling up for food, the on ground teams are organising meals through NGOs or buying food and giving it to families.
According to Childline officials the lockdown has led to an increase in calls even pertaining to reporting concerns over violence, stress and abuse among children. A lot of these calls are of the kind that require counselling over phone as it is emerging that with all people at home, they want to reach out and share their concerns. In terms of rescue operations, officials said that it is challenging to reach a child in distress in these times but the teams on ground are doing it in coordination with district authorities and informing the Child Welfare Committees over phone about the cases. In keeping with social distancing norms, Childline has ensured that it works with a limited staff strength.