Access to immunisation facility badly hit, also around 72 % children reported to be not able to access online classes during lockdown, as revealed by a rapid online perception study conducted by one of India’s leading child rights organisations – Child Rights and You (CRY). (Photo: Yasir Nisar)
Ziraat Times Team Report
Srinagar: Seventy seven (77) percent children of age 0-5 years were not able to access basic healthcare services such as immunization during the Covid-related lockdown in Jammu & Kashmir. In simple terms, more than 7 in every 10 children were denied of the access to immunization on time – a finding which is revealed in the report of an online rapid survey conducted by CRY.
The study, named ‘Rapid Online Perception Study about the Effects of COVID-19 on Children’, was conducted during the first and second phases of lockdown based on responses of parents / primary caregivers from all across the country, including Jammu and Kashmir. A total of 387 respondents from Jammu & Kashmir participated in the survey.
Explaining the relevance and imperativeness of the study, Soha Moitra, the Regional Director, CRY (North) said, “CRY initiated a lot of relief work for the children belonging to marginalised communities since the nationwide lockdown was announced. While reaching out to the people through our COVID-response activities, we realised that it was of utmost importance to understand and analyse the nature of its multiple effects on children’s physical and psycho-social well-being, nutrition, education, protection and online security issues. Hence, we decided to conduct the study to help us address the issues of children in a better way, and make us better prepared to support their needs during and after the lockdown.”
As immunization programmes witnessed a major setback during the lockdown across the country, the results of the survey across 23 states and Union Territories found nearly 50 per cent of the parents with children below five years of age unable to access immunisation services. Worryingly, the figure was considerably high in Jammu & Kashmir with 77.14% children below five years unable to get immunisation services.
According to the rapid online perception study, in J&K, nearly 35% of the respondents reported that their children had not received medical help during lockdown, resulting in difficulties to cope with their children’s illnesses and health hazards.
The study also talks about more systemic arrangements and logistical preparedness to ensure that children with no or compromised digital reach are not deprived from their Right to Education. With online classes introduced as a substitute of schools during lockdown, access to education for children remained a major issue of concern, as many of them, especially the ones from marginalised and financially poorer backgrounds found it difficult without smartphones and internet access. The survey findings revealed that in only 27.62% households in the state children of school-going age could access online classes on a regular basis, the national figures are equally worrying with children of barely 41% household could access online classes – thus raising a serious question about the justification of virtual classrooms as an alternative of school education on a long term basis, until every household is equipped with internet access and smartphones.
Furthermore, the study also sheds some light on the nature and extent of internet usage of children. Almost 90% parents / primary caregivers reported that the lockdown has increased the screen time of their child to great or some extent. About half of the households recorded an increase of children’s exposure to online activities during lockdown.
Around 76% parents agreed that they could keep a watch of their children’s online activity to some extent. 42.8% parents reported that they sometimes kept watchful eyes on what their children are accessing while being online, while 32.87% parents said that they could not do so, thus, making children more vulnerable to negative experiences on internet. Similar findings from another recent study conducted by CRY on Online Safety and Internet Addiction also suggested that 1 in every 3 adolescent users reported going through negative experience on the internet, while 9.2% children reported that they had experienced cyber-bullying.
Talking about CRY’s multifaceted COVID-response activities, Soha said, “During these trying times CRY reached out to over 3100 households in J&K by supporting them through hygiene related assistance. We also provided educational support to the children of the valley.”
“As the COVID- 19 crisis spreads, it is transforming the lives of children at large. Exclusive attention to mitigate the COVID crisis is leading to an overall neglect of other health parameters in children. If we don’t regulate the underlying health issues of our children like malnutrition, immunisation, optimum food security, psycho-social wellbeing, then there would be a huge impact on the lives of the vulnerable children. Now, as the state experiences gradual unlocking, we do hope that a lot more focus on children would be there to address their physical and psycho-social needs which have been compromised during lockdown”, Soha concluded.