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The issue of COVID orphans takes centre stage

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In Romania, COVID has hit hard entire families, leaving many without their loved ones. Even more frightening are the losses that many children feel, writes Cristian Gherasim, Bucharest correspondent.

Children who come to the attention of the welfare and child protection departments automatically enter a psychological counseling program so that specialists can help them to overcome the trauma more easily. At national level, there are no clear statistics regarding the children who lost their parents after falling ill with Covid., there are only local cases that make it to attention of institutions and the media.

In Sălaj County, a teenager was left without his mother. Neither one of his parents were vaccinated. Daniela Bocșa, psychologist, close to the family: “It is extraordinarily difficult, he was left without a mother and with a sad father, a father who blames himself, a father who does not know how he will be able to help him, because he has to be helped as well to get over this shock and recover.

In Bucharest, a 7 years old came into the care of an aunt after his entire family was gone.

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The death toll is so high that some chapels inside hospitals will temporarily take over the bodies from morgues. Romania receives help from abroad. Italy, Serbia, the Netherlands or France are just some of the countries that have sent medicines and oxygen concentrators. In the next few days, more medical teams from abroad will arrive, but that does little to solve the situation of children left without parents, especially since Romania has some of the highest poverty levels in the EU amongst children, which is only expected to increase amongst orphans.

According to the report analyzing the situation in 2020, almost a quarter (24.2%) of children in the EU were at risk of poverty and social exclusion, compared to 21.7% of adults (18-64 years) and 20.4% among the elderly (65 years and older).

The highest share of children in this situation is in Romania (41.5%), Bulgaria (36.2%), Spain (31.8%) and Greece (31.5%).

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Last year, the lowest share of children at risk of poverty and social exclusion was in Slovenia (12.1%), the Czech Republic (12.9%), Denmark (13.5%) and Finland (14.5%).

The situation has become so dire that a group of MEPs is calling for European support for children left orphaned because of COVID.

27 MEPs have called for an EU support mechanism for children who have lost one or both parents to Covid. The 27 MEPs are from all political groups and represent 15 member states: Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, France, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain. They called on European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Commissioner for Employment and Social Rights Nicolas Schmit to provide a specific aid and assistance mechanism for children in the European Union who have lost one or both parents to Covid-19.

To date, almost 800,000 European citizens have lost their lives to the new coronavirus infection.

It is expected that following the COVID-19 pandemic the level of social exclusion, inequality and poverty will increase amongst kids, particularly those in rural areas.

As mentioned, poverty levels would only increase if nothing is done. Numerous researchers have already warned about the considerably increased risk of poverty and social exclusion, abuse, school dropout, and the impact that the pandemic has on the physical and mental health of children around the world. And the European Union is no exception: almost a quarter of European children (22.2%) were at risk of poverty before 2020. In Romania, almost 1,400,000 children are at risk of poverty or social exclusion, and half some of them are already living in extreme poverty.

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