Pandemic orphans, a tragic reality in Ho Chi Minh City
by Thanh Thao

In southern Vietnam’s largest city, 1,500 children have been orphaned by COVID-19. “Many don't even know their parents are dead,” says a social worker. Government has taken steps to deal with the emergency.

Ho Chi Minh City (AsiaNews) – Over the past three months, Vietnam has seen an unprecedented rise in coronavirus infections.

In the first week of September, almost 15,000 new cases have been reported a day. This has driven up the death toll and left hundreds of families broken by the pandemic.

According to data the Department of Education and Training, from April 27 to today, more than 1,500 children and young people have become orphans due to COVID-19 in Ho Chi Minh City alone.

We have collected the testimony of a social worker from Tân Phú, a district in the heart of Ho Chi Minh, who is dealing with the case of three siblings (the youngest one is just one year old and the oldest is five) orphaned by the death of their mother.

“A month ago, the mother of the three children contracted the virus and was hospitalised. She died some time later.

“When I went to the family home to ascertain the situation, I found the three children in the house alone, unaware of the fact that their mother had died a week earlier.”

Another social worker from District 12 in Ho Chi Minh City spoke to AsiaNews about another case.

“Four sisters became orphans after both parents died from the pandemic. The eldest, Yen, is 22 and today she has to raise her three siblings alone.”

“I don't know what I will do in the immediate future,” said the young woman. “I will look for a job to support my brothers' studies. This is what my mother asked me before she died.”

The government is trying to deal with the situation created by COVID-19. Since 1 July, the Ho Chi Minh City Department of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs pays each orphan 900,000 VND per month (just under US$ 40).

“Orphans also receive free health insurance and are exempt from school fees up to age 16," the department's website reads.

“Furthermore, children who decide to go to college or university continue to enjoy social assistance until the end of their studies, but not beyond the age of 22.”

Meanwhile, the contagion rate in Vietnam remains at around 10,000 new cases a day while the vaccination campaign is struggling to take off. To date, only 6.35 million people have been immunised, less than 7 per cent of the population.