Brazil struggles to care for COVID-19 orphans

COVID-19 patients in the emergency room at a hospital in Porto Alegre, Brazil (CNS/Diego Vara, Reuters)

Brazil is struggling to deal with the needs of more than 130,000 children who have been made orphans by the unexpected deaths of parents or caregivers during the COVID-19 pandemic. Source: NCR Online.

Catholic agencies have been working with government authorities to try and meet the need, and to prevent as many children as possible from having to be put in temporary shelters. Church pastoral ministries that work with immigrants also have been monitoring the situation of COVID-19 orphans.

A July study in The Lancet, a widely respected medical journal, found that Brazil has the second highest number of orphans caused by COVID-19 infections among the countries of the world, following more than 141,000 new orphans in Mexico.

The Brazilian social service infrastructure provides a number of possibilities to assist new orphans, including distribution of food kits to economically impoverished relatives taking custody of children.

One option is to send the orphan to a shelter, usually operated by civic organisations (including the Church) and regulated by the government. But that should be the last resource, said Maristela Cizeski, the coordinator of the child ministry office of the Brazilian bishops’ conference.

Márcio Thadeu Marques, a Catholic and a prosecutor for cases involving young people in Brazil’s Maranhão state, has been one of the leading authorities in the process of establishing new protocols to support children who lost their caregivers to COVID-19.

“People who are hospitalised with the disease are now asked if they have children and if there is anybody to take care of them,” he said.

“The same thing is done when a person goes to a notary’s office to issue a death certificate for a relative. This way, the state knows who those children and teenagers are and can adequately monitor their situation,” he added.


As Brazil struggles to care for COVID-19 orphans, church agencies try to help (By Eduardo Campos Lima, NCR Online)

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