Hit by the pandemic, Childline surveyed 3,000 street children in urgent need of food in central Bhubaneswar alone
Four children aged below 10 years, sitting helplessly and seeking food under a tree on the outskirts of Bhubaneswar after being abandoned by their parents, were rescued on Saturday.
Childline, an NGO working with disadvantaged children, said their mother had left them to fend for themselves eight months ago. The father, a laterite stone cutter, used to get food for the three girls and a boy. However, three days ago, the father disappeared, leaving them at the mercy of others.
The rescued children were put up in childcare institutions after the Child Welfare Committee saw them through video-conferencing.
“With sources of income for people in the low income groups drying up due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the vulnerability of children has been further exacerbated. Children are exposed to hunger and turning malnourished,” said Benudhar Senapati, Director of the Childline facility, on Sunday.
In 2020-21, Childline intervened for 758 children in Bhubaneswar alone. The situation worsened to such an extent that 252 were required to be rescued and sent to childcare institutes.
In past three months since April, Childline has intervened for 196 children, and 51 children had to be rescued.
“Last year, some sort of institutional arrangement was made to provide food to street children. However, this year, children, many of whom live with jobless parents on streets, are going through terrible time. We have not found any system in place to address the food needs of these vulnerable children,” said Mr. Senapati.
Childline said it was providing breakfast to 1,012 children in central Bhubaneswar during the ongoing lockdown. Provisioning food for these children has been inconsistent. Some benevolent individuals and NGOs have come up with food for street children during mid-day but it’s not meant for all. Many children are going without dinner, he pointed out.
Since Bhubaneswar has already entered a fourth lockdown (of 15 days each), street children are also not able to beg for food. In central Bhubaneswar, Childline has surveyed the presence of 3,000 children in urgent need of food.
Last month, a newborn was sold by its parents for ₹10,000. Police investigation found that the parents’ lack of income, and inability to provide food, were the main reasons behind their action.
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