Estimates in a Lancet article say that 19 lakh children experienced orphanhood due to COVID-19 in India during the first 20 months of the pandemic are "sophisticated trickery intended to create panic among citizens", the government said on Wednesday.
"The Ministry of Women and Child Development finds the Lancet article dated February 24, 2022 giving estimates of children affected by COVID-19 associated orphanhood very surprising. These findings have no correlation with ground reality in India as reflected from field findings," it said in a press statement.
The Ministry said that as per data collected by the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) from States and Union Territories, the number of orphans during COVID-19 in India stood at 1.53 lakh.
The NCPCR set up a portal called "Bal Swaraj" last year following the instructions of the Supreme Court. The SC ordered that NCPCR should collect data of all children who have experienced loss of parent either due to Covid-19 or other reasons during the period of pandemic.
"So far, 1,53,827 children have been registered on the portal including 1,42,949 children with single parent, 492 abandoned children and 10,386 children who have lost both their parents," the statement said.
A modelling study published in The Lancet Child and Adolescent Health on February 24, based on excess mortality and fertility rates estimated the loss of a parent and primary caregivers due to COVID-19 in the 20-month period between March, 2020 and October, 2021. It defined orphanhood as the death of one or both parents. Primary caregiver loss included parental death or the death of one or both custodial grandparent.
The study estimated that at least 52 lakh children under 18 years of age experienced the death of a parent or caregiver due to COVID-19. This included 33,67,000 children who experienced the loss of a parent and 18,33,300 who were affected by the death of a grandparent or older adult caregiver living in their own home. A total of 19.17 lakh children in India lost either or both parent.
The study also highlighted that COVID-19-associated orphanhood and caregiver death nearly doubled in the six months from May 1, 2021 through October 31, 2021 - a period that partially coincided with second wave of COVID-19 in India - compared with the amount after the first 14 months of the pandemic. It is estimated that a staggering 76.5% of children orphaned were paternal orphans.