Government helpline for children 'CHILDLINE 1098' has responded to a total of 4.6 lakh calls in 21 days, with a majority of them received during the lockdown period.

These calls were received from March 20 to April 10, said CHILDLINE 1098, the 24x7 helpline across 571 districts for children in distress. The CHILDLINE 1098 in a statement said that 30% of the calls were from the northern region, followed by 2% from the western region, and 21% and 20% from southern and eastern regions respectively.

"These calls include calls for information, active intervention, prank/crank calls, or even silent calls where the confidence building of the caller is undertaken. The helpline is providing information about COVID-19 prevention as well as referring to the relief services through district level linkages," the CHILDLINE 1098 said in a statement.

A total of 9,385 interventions were also taken up on the ground by the CHILDLINE 1098 frontline workers during this period.

"Of these, 30 % of the cases were related to the pandemic situation. Within the coronavirus-related interventions, 91% of them requested for food, while 6 per cent needed medical assistance and the remaining were regarding help with transportation," the helpline said.

Of these 9,385 interventions, to name a few major categories, emergency interventions for child protection aspects (protection from abuse) accounted for 20%, which includes preventing child marriage, physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, trafficking, abandonment, neglect, child labour, it said.

About 9% of the calls were related to health aspects. Missing children and education related issues accounted for 5% each, it said.

"However, it is felt that a large number of children may not have had opportunities to report their distress as they may not have access to mobile phones or to their friends, teachers or other concerned adults. The helpline is planning to actively follow up on the cases of abuse reported to ensure that they are safe," the helpline said.

Childline service has been identifying vulnerable children and adults like migrants, nomadic population, tribal, pavement dwellers and street children in the districts and linking them to other donors and district administration for continuation of relief services.

Apart from working with the district administration, teams have been supporting the health department in raising awareness on COVID-19, distributing safety masks and sanitisers to 'break the chain', working with the labour department and down to the panchayat level, it said.

"However, communities are fast quarantining themselves, and are not allowing any outsider to enter their villages; therefore they find it difficult to rescue a child from such communities," it said.

Shelter for the child rescued is also an issue in some districts as the child care institutions are hesitant to receive new children. The rehabilitation aspects are getting delayed due to lack of railways and other transport, the helpline said.