Three days after their father died of coronavirus, six-year-old twins Tripti and Pari were found lying next to their mother, unaware that they too had been abused.
Thousands of children have lost one or both parents in the new waves ravaging India, where millions of orphans once lived. The prospect of increasing numbers of abandoned children worries many.
Tripti and Pari, whose names have been changed, are now being cared for by their maternal uncle, Ramesh Singh.
“I’m just telling the girls that their parents are coming home soon,” said Singh, whose name has been changed to protect the children.
“I don’t want to tell them the truth here… they’re still young.”
Their heartbroken mother refused to eat properly after the death of her husband, which led to her recovery from coronavirus, Singh said.
After repeatedly knocking on the door, the family threw water on the girls’ windows to open it.
He was taken away when doctors arrived to report that his mother had died.
When twins are cared for, the epidemic – which kills thousands of people a day – leaves others without a caregiver.
‘Woe to the mind’
Such children “are not just anxious, they are at high risk of neglect, abuse and abuse,” said UNICEF India Director Yasmin Haque.
In addition, Indian media reported last month about a child who was found near his mother who died 48 hours ago and neighbors are afraid of contracting the virus.
The number of epidemics is over 270,000 in India, although many people believe it is the highest cause of death.
“We don’t know how many people are dying, let alone how many children are orphaned,” said Akancha Srivastava, an online security expert who has set up a coronavirus helpline.
However, online evidence points to a devastating scale.
Religious media are provided with breast milk and food for babies whose mothers have died.
Some coronavirus orphans are also being targeted for illegal screening.
Srivastava said his mobile phone received at least 300 calls and messages a day.
“Our officials have a heavy job, people are being disrupted. It is very easy in these times to give a child the opportunity to sell or sell children, ”he said.
Under Indian law, an orphan must be considered by a government official and be placed in a position where there are no relatives to care for.
Smriti Irani, India’s Ministry of Women and Child Protection, this month warned that illegal methods of raising COVID-19 orphans are “traps” and “illegal”.
The AFP news agency said it had received a message on WhatsApp, offering a two-year-old girl and a two-month-old man to take her.
“Sons of Brahmin,” the message said, implying that the children were high-ranking Hindus. The contact number was turned off and is being investigated by authorities.
A broken age
Children whose parents have died or are sick have been reduced to selling vegetables on the streets, according to the Protsahan India Foundation, a children’s rights NGO.
“We are looking at a generation of children who are suffering the most and are experiencing the most traumatic experiences that can be traumatic for adults,” said Sonal Kapoor from the foundation.
He also said that children are suffering the most from recent epidemics, including incest.
Dhananjay Tingal from Bachpan Bachao Andolan told AFP that the children’s organization receives about 50 calls a day, a significant increase from last year.
“This is not the first time children have been orphaned. But this time, the baby has to look at each other … there are obstacles and even hugging the baby in pain, ”he said.
Some safety groups have encouraged parents to devise strategies for dealing with their illness.
For Tripti and Pari, their maternal uncle wants to welcome them.
“They had good parents. I hope I can help the girls achieve their dreams, ”she said.