Shocking: Covid-19 leaves 134 500 South African children orphaned

South Africans are horrified by the shocking number of children orphaned by the pandemic.


Heart-rending statistics have been released relating to the number of South African children who have been left orphaned due to the devastating effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The virus has led to an estimated 134 500 orphans in the country, which means that at least one in every 200 children in every age group will have experienced Covid-19-associated orphanhood.

What’s worse is that the research has only been done up to the end of October last year (The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health), which means the figure is likely to be even higher by this time.

According to the study, orphanhood is defined as the death of one or both parents; primary caregiver loss as the death of one or both parents, or of one or both co-residing custodial grandparents aged 60-80 years.

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In what researchers describes as a ‘heart-breaking hidden pandemic’, up to 5.2 million children globally have been orphaned or lost a caregiver due to Covid-19. South Africa ranked second highest of the 21 countries modelled in The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health study, with 7.22 orphans per 1000. Peru ranked first with 8.28.

Evidently, there are numerous concerns about these children.

The study states: “Children of all ages experience grief and might also experience inadequate care, altered mood of the surviving parent or caregiver, food insecurity, marginal housing and family disintegration. Younger bereaved children need immediate full-time nurturing and ongoing support for early childhood development. The quality of care affects subsequent development, health and mental health.”

It further states that “adolescents face post-orphanhood risks (varying across contexts) including sexual violence, exploitation, HIV infection, suicide and child labour. It also includes adolescent pregnancy, separation from family, household poverty, and leaving school to care for younger siblings.”

Orphan
Orphan. Image: iStock

READ: Covid-19 orphans on the rise as virus claims caregivers

A number almost just as shocking, is the number of single parents in South Africa (which increases children’s chances of being orphaned once their one parent passes away). According to the research done by the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) and the South African Race Relations Institute (SARRI), 43% of minor children in South Africa live with their biological mother only, 2% with their biological father and 19% do not live with either of their biological parents. Only 36% of South African children live with both their parents.

That said, it is rather concerning that only 25% of some 60 million South Africans have a valid Will in place.

What happens if there’s no Last Will and Testament in place?

If only 25% of South Africans have valid Last Wills and Testaments in place, that means that 75% of the country’s parents leave their children’s futures in the hands of the Government once they pass away.

If you pass away without a last Will and Testament and you have not nominated any legal guardians who are easily contactable, your children might be taken to a place of safe care (in extreme cases).

It’s an unbearable thought that children might have to to deal with the death of a parent and then also the trauma of being taken away from their home. Still, it happens and even more so on a larger scale since the onslaught of Covid-19.

How does it work?

Chapter 9, Section 152 of the Children’s Act states that a “social worker or police official may believe a child is in urgent need of care and protection and any delay will endanger the child.

The child may be then removed without a court order and placed in temporary safe care.”

This is what leads to children often being temporarily placed in the safe care of friendly neighbours, friends or family until the court decides where they should be placed on a permanent basis.

But, that is only when neighbours, friends or family are willing to help.

Orphanhood due to Covid-19
Orphanhood due to Covid-19. Image: iStock

Why you need a Last Will and Testament

There are a couple of important advantages to having a Last Will and Testament.

  • The parent nominates the guardians for their children, which means it can be people the parents and children know and trust. It’s vital that more than one guardian is nominated. If the parent passes, this will show who should be contacted if the first nominated guardian could not be reached.
  • It avoids confusion over inheritance of assets and appoints an executor to manage the estate.
  • Assets meant for your children may be left in a Testamentary Trust, managed professionally by a trusted company like Capital Legacy. This safeguards the children’s future and addresses issues like property being left as part of the inheritance, who is going to take care of the funds and when will the appropriate age be to remit all the money to the children.
  • A Last Will with a Testamentary Trust for minors makes it easier and faster for children to access funds.

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