mother and child in India

India: Strengthening Families in COVID's Aftermath

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On first impression, 28-year-old P. Sruti and Swati, her four-year-old daughter, appear to be like any other fun-loving mother and child, together playing with baby brother Bhaskar. Swati energetically sings to entertain little Bhaskar, who looks on attentively. Their smiles and giggles, as they recall children’s songs and intricate hand gestures are simple, yet precious moments for any parent seeing their children grow up. Their family bond remains steadfast, maybe even stronger now, despite the harsh toll the COVID-19 pandemic took on their family.

 

“My daughter is very mixed in nature, she is very friendly with everyone, taking care of her brother. She loves to help others like her father. She is like her father. Her father taught her boxing, she is very much interested in boxing. Always doing boxing with me, even with others. She is intelligent and good in studies. She also loves to sing, dance and play.” 

- P. Sruti

 

 

woman in India smiling facing camera

 

However, underneath the rhythms of caregiving and home life lies an unspoken but ever-present sense of loss. Like so many of us across the world who have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, P. Sruti and her family have had to rely upon their inner resilience to face each new day, shaped by grief.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Previously, P. Sruti’s family life had a different rhythm – one of shared caregiving and someone with whom to discuss decisions about the children. When Swati was a baby and toddler, P. Sruti’s husband, P. Anil Kumar, worked for a private company while she cared for their two young children.

 

In May 2021, their whole world crumbled when the entire family contracted COVID-19, but P. Anil Kumar didn’t get better as his wife and children recovered. Although he received care and oxygen at a local hospital, he never returned home to his wife and children.

 

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He had been the sole bread winner for the family and most of their family’s savings had been spent on his medical treatment for his week-long hospital stay. The family was left in a precarious financial situation as they also struggled to make sense of this heart-rending loss. P. Sruti was terrified that she might have no alternative but to send her two children to a Child Care Institution (CCI), also referred to an orphanage, so that they could have adequate food and shelter. With millions of parents, grandparents or primary caregivers lost to COVID-19 in India, P. Sruti is not alone in struggling to make this difficult decision.

Keeping a Family Together After a Tragic Loss 

 

“After the death of my husband, my son’s health condition was not good…I was also mentally disturbed and financially very weak…I faced the problem to fulfil the immediate needs of my children and also faced the financial problem for the admission of my daughter at school, but with the support of my maternal uncle, it was possible.”

- P. Sruti

 

child at play in India
Equally the loss of her father placed a heavy psychological and emotional toll on four-year-old Swati, her mother elaborates, “She was very emotionally attached to her father. After the death of her father, she was silent. She would not even come outside of the house for playing with other kids. She was struggling mentally after the loss of her father, she used to ask me when will father come? When will he do a video call! Call my father! She was disturbed for three to four months. Now she is recovering.”

 

child in India

Fortunately, Swati and Bhaskar were identified through an initiative that conducted outreach and provided virtual case management support as part of a COVID-19 emergency response with support from Changing the Way We Care (CTWWC) India, local partner ARUNA, and the Government of India, so that a loving, resilient mother could continue caring for her children in their home.

 

 

 

family in India sitting together
For children such as Swati and Bhaskar, fortunately they could be referred to the Ashirbad initiative from the state government of Odisha. Under this program, children who have lost one or both parents to COVID-19 receive financial assistance. The family also received food support. The cash and rations kept the family together. Under a virtual case management process, the family is constantly monitored for any further support needed.

 

 

 

 

 

family sits together in India
Presently, CTWWC India through the virtual case management process has reached 2,400 children and referred 22 children, to the state government supported Ashirbad initiative and the Disaster relief emergency fund from the central government, designed specifically for children and families who lost parents or immediate family to COVID-19. The virtual case management is being continued by local partner ARUNA.

 

 

Looking Towards the Future

mother holding child in India
Now, P. Sruti is focused on her family’s future, “I wake up at 7:00 AM, sometimes at 5:00AM as my second child is very young. I feed my children then at 7:00 AM help my daughter in her online class. After that I guide my daughter in her studies, since her exam days are coming soon."

 

P. Sruti has also taken three months of training to pursue a potential job opportunity with a company, while exploring several other options to provide for her family. “In the future I am planning to do any business” she said. “I am thinking to start a grocery or stationery shop."

 

When she shared gratitude for support accessing government financial and food support, critical help that kept her family intact, she referred to the months following her husband’s death as “our crisis.” And now, “I feel confident that someone is there for my family.”

 

To learn more, about Changing the Way We Care (CTWWC) India, click here

Statistics from the Imperial College of London’s COVID-19 Orphanhood data:

  • Estimates of loss of primary caregiver: 2,227,600 (death of one or both parents or death of custodial grandparents)
  •  Estimates of children losing primary or secondary caregivers: 3,495,000 (death of one or both parents, death of custodial grandparents, and/or death of other co-residing grandparents)

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