Goa Pro Child Network, a network of civil society organizations and child rights advocates, working for protection of children in the state wrote to the Chief Secretary, Government of Goa as Chairperson of Goa State Child Protection Society as well as Chairperson of Goa State Disaster Management Authority.
They claimed, the immense health and socioeconomic crises brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic have disproportionately hit underprivileged children. What started as a public health emergency has turned into a multidimensional crisis that has led to a pandemic of malnutrition, of poverty, of violence and also mental health issues of children in the state.
The letter included Guidelines for Identification of Eligible Households to receive food grains at subsidized prices as per Section 10 of the National Food Security Act (NFSA), 2013 along with step by step procedure.
The following is the list of demands they made from the Government.
As per Notification No. DCS/S/Food Security/2014-15/877 dated 10th December 2014 – Guidelines for Identification of Eligible Households as per Section 10 of National Food Security Act, 2013. Information obtained from the department for 2014-2020 reveals poor implementation of the scheme for Priority Households, with majority of the classified groups (including orphans and minors), receiving no benefits, even amid COVID-19 pandemic.
The government claim that the state is leading in the implementation of the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana and that 97.32 percent people covered in the scheme availed its benefits does not match with the information provided by the department. As per the department, in Goa, out of a population of 15 lakh, almost 5.49 lakh people are covered under PHH (Priority House Holder) cards and the benefits have reached very few people as per RTI.
The network is seriously concerned about the food security of children in difficult circumstances, especially amid the surge in COVID-19 pandemic. With no mechanism for enrolment and implementation in place, the PHH category has not been able to avail the benefits. Further, with the Central government now announcing additional free food grains for May and June 2021, due to economic disruptions caused by the COVID-19 outbreak in the country under Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana, the entitled beneficiaries will not be in position to avail these benefits too, if the systems are not functioning efficiently and there is no proactive approach on the part of the concerned Department/s.
Mental Health of Children
COVID-19 has triggered an impending psychological disaster for many children in distress, who are passive recipients of sufferings. Being already in a precarious situation, they are undergoing high levels of trauma and stress because of being uprooted overnight. This stress on children during their formative years can impact their self-esteem and decision-making abilities lifelong.
While we are responding to the pandemic, it is an act of justice that we pay heed to children’s needs. With the lockdown, several basic services for children such as growth monitoring, supplementary nutrition, immunization, sexual and reproductive health services, education and child protection systems were disrupted. This has affected children living in multidimensional poverty disproportionately since they are largely dependent on these services to fulfil their rights and entitlements
In view of this, our demands are:
1) Notify the “Sponsorship Scheme under Integrated Child Protection Scheme, which can provide supplementary support to families to meet medical, nutritional, educational and other needs of their children amid this pandemic, with a view to improving their quality of life.
2) Immediate identification and enrolment of beneficiaries for Priority Households (PHH) under National Food Security Act, 2013 in terms Notification No. DCS/S/Food Security/2014-15/877 dated 10th December 2014.
3) Extend the mid-day meal scheme for May, 2021, and ensure that the mid-day meal package henceforth, at least during the period of the pandemic, includes immunity building foods (that have vitamin C, D, Zinc, magnesium), where it may either be distributed to the children at their doorstep or the parents may be asked to collect as has been done so far. Also, audit of the mid-day meals distributed in/through schools in Goa.
4) Set up/Activate State Children’s Fund (under the Goa Children’s Act) and Juvenile Justice Fund (under the Juvenile Justice Act) so that emergency needs of children due to COVID-19 vulnerabilities, may be prioritized and addressed through these funds.
They further said, “While we envisage a new normal future for us, these children are still waiting for a “normal” future to unfold. These little architects of resilience are often “seen but not heard”. As COVID-19 has added woes to their lives, they must become our priority while we respond to the pandemic. We must not leave them behind. We must hold their hand.”
Goa Pro Child Network concluded by saying, “We draw your attention to the directive of the Empowered Group 6 (EG 6) constituted by Government of India and chaired by CEO, NITI Aayog to all the Chief Secretaries, requesting them to appoint State-level Nodal Officers to coordinate with all NGOs and resolve their issues apart from leveraging their resources and networks.”
“We, therefore call upon your authorities to give attention to the concerns raised by Goa Pro Child Network. We look forward to receiving your reply and to continuing a constructive dialogue and co-operation with you and the Government of Goa.”
Find letter along with the Guidelines here-CSCA_NFSA Guidelines