COVID-19's orphans - pandemic's hidden toll

Chia sẻ
(VOVWORLD) - In Ho Chi Minh City alone, more than 1,500 students attending local schools have lost their parents in the past few months. The figure is undoubtedly much higher if you include children not in the education system and children in other provinces and cities. Those children will need special long-term care, both physical and psychological, to ensure their mental health and emotional development.
Vo Nguyen Tien Dinh, 16, of Tan Phu ward, Thu Duc city, couldn’t believe his mother had died from COVID-19. His 62-year-old father suffered a stroke five years ago and has lifelong disabilities. Dinh, the second of four children, is very worried about his family’s finances, now that his mother has passed away.
"I know it’s hard, but I want to go to school. My youngest brother is just 11, and we’re frightened to think about losing both parents. I'm upset because I can't do much for my family," said Dinh.

Tran Khoa Dang Truong, 10, lives in Binh Tan district, Ho Chi Minh City. His father and mother both died of COVID-19 within a month, so financial responsibility now falls to his oldest sister, Tran Thi Ngoc Tuyen, who recently graduated from high school but has yet to find a stable job. Truong tells himself that he must study his best to meet his late parents' expectations.

“I want to go to university. I'll study hard to achieve that goal. No one in my family has attended university, so my parents would be happy if they knew I did,” Truong said.

COVID-19 took away the parents of several babies before they were even named.

During the height of the pandemic, Tu Du hospital received more than 1,200 pregnant women, and 50 of them died of COVID-19. The hospital has taken excellent care of the children who have lost their mothers, whose mothers are infected with COVID-19, or whose families are in quarantine.

Hung Vuong hospital in HCM City established a center for newborn babies whose mothers are infected with, or have died from, the coronavirus.

 “We have established the HOPE center to take care of babies whose mothers are infected with COVID-19. We got support from the Ho Chi Minh City Women's Union in training volunteers to care for newborn babies whose families are unable to take them due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Some of the mothers are critically ill and don’t know if they’ll make it,” said Associate Professor Dr. Hoang Thi Diem Tuyet, the Director of Hung Vuong Hospital.

COVID-19's orphans - pandemic's hidden toll - ảnh 1To Thi Bich Chau, President of the Fatherland Front Committee of HCM city visits and presents gifts to COVID-19's orphans. (Photo: VOV)

Support for children orphaned by COVID-19 is not a short-term issue. It needs a long-term policy. Ms. To Thi Bich Chau, President of the Fatherland Front Committee of HCMC, said the city has designed a long-term plan to make sure these children receive the best possible care until they reach adulthood.

“This Covid-19 wave is superfast and unpredictable. The number of orphans who have no one left to care for them is high. We need to keep track of these  children and each one’s personal situation so we can provide timely support. We will extend our support to the wider community to ensure those children receive the support they need to develop to their full potential,” Chau said.

According to the municipal Department of Education and Training, during the 4th pandemic wave, Ho Chi Minh city had more than 10,000 children infected with COVID-19, the most in the country. The Women's Union, in collaboration with the Youth Union and the Fatherland Front, mobilized organizations, businesses, and individuals to provide children with long-term support, including education and modelled care tailored to each child’s unique circumstances.

"The district will provide children who have lost their parents during this outbreak with care, scholarships, and vocational and skills training,” said Le Tan Tai, President of the Vietnam Fatherland Front in District 5.

Despite the fact that Ho Chi Minh city is facing a number of post-pandemic challenges, it is giving orphans a monthly stipend. Children under the age of four receive 40 USD per month. Children over 4 receive 24 USD per month. They also receive free health insurance cards, and tuition fee exemptions until they reach the age of sixteen. Other social support measures are in place until chilren reach the age of 22.

"Children who have lost both parents need special care and support. Ho Chi Minh City’s 7 social protection centers are prepared to receive those children. The centers must ensure immediate support in terms of psychological stability, food, and safe accommodation,” said Director of the Ho Chi Minh City Department of Labor, Invalids and Social Affairs Le Minh Tan.

COVID-19's orphans - pandemic's hidden toll - ảnh 2Several individuals and organisations have pledged to assist 440 orphans in HCM city with a total budget of 300,000 USD. (Photo: VOV)

Along with efforts from the State and local government, many organisations and individuals have pitched in to help these children get through this difficult period. 150 individuals and organisations have registered to assist 440 orphans with a total budget of 300,000 USD.

“I think this meaningful activity is a special gift to encourage the children to overcome their losses. I have visited many orphans who lost their parents in this pandemic and I told myself that I must do everything I can to support them,” said Huynh Thi Quynh Hoa, one of the sponsors. 

Trương Gia Binh, Chairman of the FPT Board of Management, decided to open a school for 1,000 children who lost their parents to COVID-19. According to Binh, the school will foster them, and provide them an education for the next 20 years. The annual cost could reach 3.5 million USD.

Since October 1, the Association of High-Quality Vietnamese Producers has supported 500 high school students whose parents died of COVID-19 with a total budget of 132,000 USD. Vu Kim Hanh, Chairwoman of the High-Quality Vietnamese Producers, said each child will receive a scholarship of 264 USD and a gift set worth 18 USD. The Association will continue to support the children long-term.

"When those students graduate from high school, we’ll offer scholarships to those who choose to continue on to university. We’ll give them vocational training and job offers if they want to work for one of our businesses,” Hanh said.

Children who lose a parent are at risk of severe psychological trauma. Without proper support, this could have a serious long-term impact on their mental well-being and reduce their chance of success in life. Ideally, they should be given care in a family setting, with their own relatives, if that’s feasible. According to Doctor of Sociology, Master of Psychotherapy, Pham Thi Thuy, a lecturer at the Sub-Institute of the National Academy of Public Administration in Ho Chi Minh City, orphans who continue to live with relatives integrate more easily into the community and recover more quickly from the trauma of losing parents.

“When orphans lose a loved one, they feel very sad and worried about the future. Those negative feelings need to be shared, talked about, and soothed by someone. It would be very dangerous for them to hold those feelings back or have no one to listen. In addition to emotional support from family and society, such children need professional counseling,” said Thuy.

Helping children overcome the psychological shock and trauma of suddenly losing their parents to the pandemic, and keeping the tragedy from blunting the child’s potential, is something we need to work on as a community.