More than 1.5 million children in 21 countries, including 1,19,000 from India, lost their primary and secondary caregivers to COVID-19 during the first 14 months of the pandemic, according to a study published in The Lancet.
The study, funded in part by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), stated that 25,500 children in India lost their mother to COVID-19 while 90,751 lost their father and 12 lost both their parents.
The study estimates that 1,134,000 children lost a parent or custodial grandparent due to COVID-19. Of these, 10,42,000 children lost their mother, father or both. Most lost one, not both parents.
Overall, 1,562,000 children are estimated to have experienced the death of at least one parent or a custodial or other co-residing grandparent (or other older relative), the NIH said in a media release.
The countries with the highest number of children who lost primary caregivers (parents or custodial grandparents) include South Africa, Peru, United States, India, Brazil and Mexico, it said.
The countries with rates of Covid-associated deaths among primary caregivers (>1/1000 children) include Peru, South Africa, Mexico, Brazil, Colombia, Iran, United States, Argentina and Russia, it added.
“Though the trauma a child experiences after the loss of a parent or caregiver can be devastating, there are evidence-based interventions that can prevent further adverse consequences, such as substance use, and we must ensure that children have access to these interventions,” said NIDA Director Nora D Volkow.
According to the report, 2,898 Indian children lost either of their custodial grandparents while nine lost both of their custodial grandparents.
However, the 0.5 rate of loss of primary and custodial parents per 1,000 children in India is much less than other countries like South Africa (6.4), Peru (14.1), Brazil (3.5), Colombia (3.4), Mexico (5.1), Russia (2.0) and the US (1.8).
“When examining how variations by sex and age in deaths and average numbers of children influenced estimates of paternal versus maternal orphans, we found that, with the exception of South Africa, deaths were greater in men than women in every country, particularly in middle-aged and older parents,” the report said.