NEW DELHI: If women are reaching for help against domestic violence, even children are not safe in the confines of their homes during the lockdown. Nearly 30 % of the over 3 lakh calls received by children’s helpline – 1098 from across the country from March 20 to March 31 pertain to callers seeking protection from violence and abuse. Overall the helpline registered a 50% increase in the calls received during the lockdown.
The data was shared at an online outreach, organised by the ministry of women and child led by minister Smriti Irani, to orient functionaries, working with vulnerable children like the district child protection units, child welfare committees and the child care institutions, about the various resources, guidelines and information available to coordinate and overcome the challenges posed by the pandemic and the lockdown enforced to combat Covid-19.
In the live interaction that was accessible on Youtube, the WCD minister asked the ministry to seek a list of children in need of psychological support in CCIs and work on a plan to see if tele-counselling services can be provided in collaboration with NIMHANS, Bangalore, in the current scenario.
The sessions saw experts on health, mental health, child protection and Childline India share information and taking questions from stakeholders. The WCD minister asserted that CCIs must ensure that decisions are taken in the “best interest of the child” and ensure that children stay where they are in keeping with the lockdown norms. She stated that if at all a child needs to be repatriated to his or her family in exceptional circumstances in the present situation, then the CCI and CWC must first inform the district magistrate and superintendent of police to ensure adequate checks and protection of the child.
Meanwhile, the Childline call data shows that from March 20 to 31, there were over 1600 callers seeking Corona virus related information, and 237 were related calls regarding Covid -19 where the callers sought guidance and help to take sick children to hospitals. There were about 11% calls pertaining to health concerns, 8% were complaints of child labour and another 8% pertain to missing and runaway children. There were 5% calls pertaining to homelessness and between 5 to 10% calls regarding shelter and food in the backdrop of the lockdown.
The online sessions were steered by experts including Dr Shekhar P Seshadri, a renowned psychiatrist and professor of the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry in NIMHANS, Bangalore, Tannistha Datta, child protection specialist from UNICEF, Dr GS Khilnani, renowned chest and lungs specialist from Pushpawati Singhania Hospital and Research Institute and Harleen Walia deputy executive director, Childline India.
Dr Seshadri described the current situation of children in CCIs to be one of a “lockdown within a lockdown.” This he said has its own set of stresses because even though the children in a way are in a lockdown of sorts as they live in an institution regulated by a routine and discipline the thought of a country-wide lock down can lead to stress. He pointed that such a challenge can be addressed through information sharing and techniques like change of routine. He also cautioned about violence against children living in their own homes aggravating in the current scenario is a real concern. He pointed that due to proximity and enhanced anxiety, frustrations and stresses arising out of the pandemic and uncertainty surrounding a lockdown can trigger violent behaviour towards children who are most vulnerable.