Childline Thoubal, frontlines during COVID 19 lockdown

Mamta Lukram
The global pandemic of COVID 19 is a testing time for the child activist who are working in the CHILDLINE. Lockdown are the days where everyone is obliged to stay back home for safety to fight against the disease. Yet, CHILDLINE didn’t lock down during the nationwide lockdown. They are the ones who are to be more active during the tough times, as selfless frontlines volunteers for the greater cause of children in the district. They didn’t be locked down.
Integrated Rural Development Social Organisation (IRDSO), the collaborative organisation of Child Line Thoubal District have been standing upright for the protection of child rights in Thoubal and Kakching districts. These districts have been experiencing a spike in the cases of child sexual assault. A total of 19 cases takes place during the lockdown. Out of them, some worst cases include POCSO case of a 5 years old girl by another 13 years old juvenile, POCSO case of 8 years old minor, POCSO case of 7 year old minor girl and POCSO of a 15 years old girl etc.One Child Activist working in the organisation shared that cases are in alarming increased during lockdown. The average POCSO cases used to receive were one in a month or two, before it.
An instruction was served by Ministry of Women and Child Development (MWCD), Government of India and CHILDLINE India Foundations (CIF), stating that CHILDLINE being an emergency service has to remain active, functional and supportive under any circumstances and situations. Responding to it the team remained themselves available for interventions and rescue operations at all time. However, the challenges and risk as possessed by the volunteers, were inherently high. They are the fighter without Personal Protection Equipment (PPEs).The greatest concern is the demand by exigency of time forfree emergency movements. Despite the curfew pass as provided, many times, the volunteers have to convince the authority imposing strict lockdown guidelines, the need to allow free movements for them.
During the intervention procedures, the direct unprotected exposure maximises risk on both sides of the interventionist and the receiver. They become the naked human shield against the crimes. One activists shared that when the second COVID 19 case was confirmed from Thoubal District, the whole district was panicky. And everyone preferred staying back at home. Those were the toughest days where volunteers have to respond cases in vulnerable areas. Moving out from home to intervene and respond urgency at different places generated worries and insecurity feel to the family member, pertaining to the circumstances of direct exposure. Nevertheless, the team never set a step back from standing upright to protect the rights of children. Later, we realised how important was it to intervene timely, during a phase where negligible people could lend a helping hand.
One of the team member shared that, the longer the lockdown is extended, the plight of vulnerability is magnified. As the schools remained closed, children stayed back at home, and so they usually spend time playing around their homes and nearby community grounds. All the boys and men also stayed back at home. Staying idle and indulging in internets for hours in watching mentally unhygienic pictures made them started looking for opportunities to commit such beastly acts. People’s mind becoming devil’s workshop, encouraged by the situational factorsis described as the most responsible factor for the increase in the crime.       So far, the organisation has provided nutrition support to 216 to selected deprived children in April month and 150 in May, before 19th May in the district.The organisation also provide health and hygiene items like sanitary pad for girls, detergent, dettol soap, face mask etc.  And many are in line for the receiving end. Sharing the view, Nonibala Narengbam, Director, IRDSO, collaborative organisation of CHILDLINE Thoubal expressed;
Our out reach programmes cover children of diverse background, irrespective of community or religious affiliations. Our journey to respond the immediate need for nutrition and medical support for the deprived children will continue. They are the ones who are in real need. And we appeal to the authorities to support us in fulfilling the needs of the children during the lockdown.