A TOTAL of 299 children in Penang have lost at least one of their parents due to the deadly Covid-19 virus, says state Agrotech and Food Security, Rural Development and Health Committee chairman Dr Norlela Ariffin.
Norlela (PH-Penanti) said the data were from the Penang Education Department as of Nov 23 this year. They include some who have lost both parents.
“From that figure, 224 are Malay children, 47 Chinese, 24 Indian and the remaining four from other races.
“Going by the five districts in the state, 95 children are from the northeast district, 41 (southwest district), 46 (north Seberang Perai), 84 (central Seberang Perai) and 33 (south Seberang Perai),” she said in her reply to Azrul Mahathir Aziz (PH – Bayan Lepas) during the answer and question session at the State Legislative Assembly sitting at the State Assembly Building in Light Street today.
According to Norlela, the state government is concerned over their welfare and has come up with several initiatives to assist each one of them accordingly.
“Some of the initiatives include looking at the needs of the families involved, especially of those children from badly affected households.
“Based on records from the Social Welfare Department (JKM), it was learnt that no children who had lost their parents or at least one of them due to Covid-19 were admitted to the welfare institutions.
“This is because all the children involved are still under the care of their families or close relatives.
“Counselling services will be offered to children who have lost their parents while psychological intervention will be conducted to ensure their well-being.
“We have also distributed food baskets to them on a regular basis.
“Apart from that, the state government has also been doing its part to ensure most of them have registered to receive any form of assistance from JKM, Pusat Zakat Negeri Pulau Pinang and Penang’s i-Sejahtera programme as well.
“With all the assistance, we are confident that it will help to meet the needs of both the children and their family members,” she added.
Earlier, Norlela had also announced that the Penang government had set up a task force to monitor the welfare and mental health of these children.
“The task force was established in collaboration with the relevant government agencies, such as JKM, state Health Department and state Education Department.
“Through this task force, we will discuss more details and take appropriate actions to address this issue more effectively,” she said.
Story by Riadz Akmal
Pix by Muhamad Amir Irsyad Omar and Ahmad Adil Muhamad