Indonesia: More than 25,000 children orphaned due to COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic

UNICEF and partners call for greater support for families and surviving caregivers to ensure children remain in family-based care.

JAKARTA  – Since the start of the pandemic, 25,430 children in Indonesia have lost one or both caregivers due to COVID-19 according to a nationwide mapping by the Ministry of Women Empowerment and Child Protection (MoWECP) and UNICEF.

The mapping finds that the majority of children (57 per cent) have lost a male caregiver, over a third (37 per cent) have lost a female caregiver, and around five per cent have lost both caregivers. Most of the children are currently being looked after by a female caregiver, some by their extended families while 114 children are unaccompanied and are not being cared for by any adult.

The loss of one or both caregivers can have a detrimental impact on the nutrition, growth and development of children and can put them at greater risk of neglect, violence and exploitation – particularly infants and young children from low-income families. Children orphaned or bereft of their caregivers often face adverse consequences, including poverty and institutionalization.

The surviving or alternative caregivers also face additional economic and mental health burdens, which often fall on women and adolescent girls and may put them at increased risk of dropping out of school.

“We continue to monitor responses given to children whose parents died due to COVID-19 from all stakeholders,” said I. Gusti Ayu Bintang Darmawati, Minister of Women’s Empowerment and Child Protection. “We will make sure that these children are protected, and their rights can be fulfilled.”

The MoWECP, UNICEF and partners are working together to continuously identify children who have been orphaned due to COVID-19 in Indonesia, facilitate access to mental health and psychosocial support for children and caregivers, and strengthen coordination efforts to ensure children remain in family-based care.

Children who have lost a caregiver due to COVID-19 are identified using RapidPro, a software that collects data via SMS, WhatsApp and other communications channels. UNICEF has customized RapidPro for this purpose so that social services across the country can collect key information, such as age, gender, location and who they are staying with via WhatsApp.

“The number of children orphaned due to COVID-19 has sharply increased over the past year and half, but it is not a short-term issue,” said UNICEF Representative Debora Comini. “We must make sure that orphaned children are properly protected, not just now but in the years to come.”

A long-term, coordinated effort to protect children who have been orphaned due to COVID-19 as well as children who are already in institutions should include:

Carrying out continuous identification of children affected by COVID-19-associated orphanhood.
Strengthening the role of family to ensure children remain in family-based care and expand social protection coverage to include family members caring for children who have lost a caregiver due to COVID-19, especially vulnerable women and girls so that they can remain in school.
Conducting periodic monitoring on the well-being of the child and the care arrangements to ensure that children remain in a safe and protective environment and have access to services.