South Africa

Many children becoming orphans due to Covid-19

HIV/Aids destroyed the family structure and now Covid-19 is doing the same. Young children are being left without a mother or father. In some cases, they’re being orphaned.

Sixteen-year-old Hadara Veeraragudu from Moorton in Chatsworth lost her mom on January 4 this year. Her mother, Dhanalutchmee Veeraragudu, 51, died in hospital after testing positive for Covid-19 and her remains were cremated at the Clare Estate Crematorium two days later.

Six days after the cremation, Hadara lost her father, Vernon Ian Veeraragudu, 54, who had also tested positive for Covid-19. He was cremated on Monday at Clare Estate Crematorium.

Hadara also tested positive for the virus but recovered. However, without her parents, she is lost.

“My parents were the start and end of my day. They were the most loving and helpful people you could find. We may not have been the richest family, but they did everything to ensure my older brother and I were happy.

“My mom was the sole breadwinner at home. She worked at a clothing store and handled money. We think that is how we all got infected with the virus. My dad could not work as he had a heart attack a few years ago, but he stayed with me during the day.”

She said even after testing positive, her family believed everyone would be okay.

“My mum and dad told me to have good thoughts and to be positive. They were sure we would get through this.

“Even after my mom was admitted to hospital, she told me not to worry. A day before my mom passed away, I spoke to her over the phone, and she was crying. I told her not to cry and that I loved her and missed her. I told her she should get better and come home soon. I know my mom fought to stay alive. She always said you must never give up. You must always fight.”

Hadara said after her mum died, her father would cry late into the night.

“They were soulmates and high school sweethearts. They were totally opposite, but they fitted perfectly together. They loved joking and just being in each other’s company.”

A few days after her mother’s funeral, her father’s health took a turn for the worse, and he was admitted to hospital. She said a few hours before he died, she had managed to speak to him and tell him how much she loved him.

“My dad was really smart, and he knew history very well. If you asked him about any date, he would tell you what happened on that day years ago.

“My dad and I watched a movie a day. My mom wasn't too interested in movies, so she and I would play board games over the weekend. It's hard because I miss them so much and I'm so confused about how I'm going to go on without them.”

Hadara said her parents had wanted her to get into the medical field. It motivated her to take physics and life sciences in the hope that, one day, she will fulfil their dreams.

Hadara has an adult brother who has moved back home to take care of her.

“It's not easy for us. We are trying to help one another with our pain. We keep ourselves busy and don't leave each other’s sight.”

She said she was also grateful for the support they had received from family members and the community.

“My parents helped so many people that when they passed away, we had people that we did not even know coming to us to help. My parents always taught me to be kind and to help others. This was how they lived their lives. Their good deeds are now coming to us in the form of support.”

Ragu Padaychee, a relative, said: "Dhana and Ian were great people who would drop everything to assist others. Their smiles, laughs and actions are engraved in our memories, and those are memories that will last with us forever. It's really hard to believe they are not here with us anymore, but I know they're our angels, resting and watching over us and their kids."

According to statistics, the predominantly Indian townships and suburbs topped the list of Covid positive cases in KwaZulu-Natal during the first week of January.

In Chatsworth, some of the areas most affected were Bayview, Havenside, Mobeni Heights, Silverglen, Westcliffe, Woodhurts, Shallcross, Moorton and Savanna Park.

Logan Naidu, the president of the Chatsworth Child Welfare, said: “The pandemic has impacted on a number of families and households. The second variant is getting to the younger generation, but it is also affecting the older family members.

“In some homes, where an older person who collected a grant dies of Covid-19, those left behind are left without any financial backing. It’s putting a strain on us. We distribute hampers, but the list keeps growing.

"Family structures are being destroyed. In some homes, it is not just one relative but two or three. When we were dealing with cancer, TB and HIV, people also died but not as fast as with Covid-19."

In Phoenix, some of the areas most affected included Centenary Park, Clayfield, Rainham, Rockford, Stonebridge, Rydalevale, Eastbury, Longcroft, Northcroft, Starwood, Sunford, Grove End, Stanmore, Woodview, Forest Haven, Brookdale, Caneside, Palmview, Trenance Manor and Trenance Park.

Aroona Chetty from the Phoenix Child Welfare said Covid-19 was destroying families.

"We find families are being torn apart. In our own welfare, we had a social worker who died, and thereafter, her mom died. It is really sad how this virus is infecting people and leaving so many families lost."

In KwaDukuza, Glenhills, Shayamoya, Happ Valley, Lot 14 and Rocky Park had the highest number of Covid positive cases during the first week of January.

In Pietermaritzburg, it was Belfort, Bombay Heights, Newholmes, Khan Road, Orient Heights, Dunveria, Raisethorpe, Allandale, Bakerville Heights and Northlands.

In Port Shepstone, the most affected areas were Oslo Beach, Marburg Ridge, Mbango and Marburg.

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