There is no doubt that 2020 has been a challenging year. We’ve all had to cope with significant restrictions, changes, trauma and even grief. But as we head for the new year with talk of a vaccine and a hoped return to normality, other parts of the world will be suffering from the impact of coronavirus for many years to come. Navin Sellaraju is Country Director of Railway Children India and explains the devastation the pandemic has caused in his country and for the children the charity cares for.
“As soon as the coronavirus hit India it caused absolute chaos for millions and as it continues to leave a swathe of devastation in its wake. For so many vulnerable children the impact of the virus will be catastrophic. The country has already recorded over five million cases of the virus alone and its poor healthcare system, fragile economy and huge population will struggle to survive the pandemic.
It is predicted that millions more children will be forced into child labour, marriage and exploitation as a desperate means to survive.
The children we work with here in India are already so vulnerable. They are the ones forced to survive on the streets and railways – begging and scavenging for food, working for money rather than going to school and living in dangerous, dirty slum communities. Their families have so little – but when the virus arrived most of them lost casual employment and all their income immediately. Now, hunger and desperation are making these children even more vulnerable than ever – with many forced to become victims of trafficking, child labour, exploitation and early marriage. Thousands have already been left with no education, no homes and no food, existing in growing slum communities, often alongside the railways, where they have no sanitation, running water or safe power supply. Even if they survive the virus itself, starvation is a very real danger.
Luckily, as Railway Children has an established presence at many of India’s stations, where these slum communities are growing, our teams are on hand to help. We are now working within them to identify the children and families that need our support the most, like 13-year-old Sanjeev who we found collecting rubbish at the station in Delhi. Sanjeev had his world turned upside down when his family was suddenly left with no income and no way of supporting itself. Then, while the family was still reeling from the shock and trying to work out how to survive, his father suddenly died. When we met Sanjeev his family was in crisis.
Our teams immediately took emergency food parcels to them so they could cook and eat and have been keeping in touch ever since. We’re helping his mother find work so that she can earn some money to support her children and we’re making sure Sanjeev and his siblings cope with their grief and trauma. We’ll stay in touch with the family until we know they are able to look after themselves and that the children are safely in school, studying for a better future, and not in danger roaming the streets.
There are millions more children like Sanjeev who face a terrifying future as the pandemic leaves their country and community in tatters.
Our teams have identified 6,000 children and families living in slums around the country’s stations in desperate situations – they need our help right now. £26 could buy an emergency food parcel that would feed a family for a month.
With your support this Christmas we want to make sure we’re there to help them recover in the wake of this pandemic and to stop coronavirus claiming more children’s lives.”
Read more about Railway Children’s Christmas campaign at www.railwaychildren.org.uk/sanjeev
Railway Children is a charity close to the heart of Parental Choice and is reflective of our values and beliefs.
We hope you would consider supporting them in someway this Christmas.
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