The Love of Family: Surviving Double Loss in the Wake of COVID-19
Many children in Indonesia have to survive the double jeopardy of losing parents to work and the coronavirus.
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- Bahasa Indonesia
Being the only female in a household of four, and at such a young age as Hayfa, who was only 11 when she lost her mother to COVID-19, is not something many children experience. On top of that, she has to endure not seeing her father for two to three weeks at a time, as he works at a construction site far from their home.
Hayfa and her two older siblings were always very close to their mother. In her bereavement, Hayfa—the baby of the family—has gravitated toward their father, Heru, who is an especially caring father.
“Whenever father comes home, Hayfa would cling to him,” said Hayfa’s eldest brother, Charis, 22. “She would demand to be cuddled, cradled and taken places. At night, she clutches father, afraid he might leave her in her sleep.”
According to Ismayati, a caregiver at the Aisyah Orphanage who has known Hayfa since she was a baby, Hayfa used to be sunny and outgoing. “Now she’s become more withdrawn and fearful of strangers,” Ismayati says. “She seems like a child who’s lost her happiness.”
The Love of Family
Amid all the hardship, Hayfa is fortunate to have the love and strength of family, especially when her father is away. Apart from her two doting brothers, Hayfa finds much solace and companionship in her relatives, who all happen to live nearby, including her grandparents from both sides, her paternal aunt Bude Mamiek, and Adiba, whose mother was a cousin of Hayfa’s.
By pure coincidence, Adiba’s own mother died a few days after Hayfa’s mother, so the two grieving girls have come to seek strength in one another. Being slightly older, Hayfa has taken on the role of big sister and mentor to her niece. There is light in her eyes when she teaches Adiba how to draw and write funny texts—her two hobbies. The captions on some of her drawings hint at her gift for the comic.
Meanwhile, Bude Mamiek has also taken on the role of mother to Hayfa, cooking her the sort of food her mother used to cook, and helping Charis take care of his siblings. “It may seem simple but it is not,” says Charis with a chuckle. “Cooking is the worst. We all eat different things and Hayfa misses our mother’s cooking.”
A Double Loss
Like Hayfa, Faishal knows a thing or two about losing his parents to both work and COVID-19. At eleven years of age, he has even lost both of his parents—both migrant workers—in close succession. He and his two younger siblings are now being taken care of by their aging grandparents.
In 2021, Faishal’s father, who worked as a stone labourer outside Java, died at home of liver disease. His wife, who had been working in Hong Kong for 6 months, fell into depression. After being sent home, she contracted COVID-19 and died shortly afterwards, leaving behind three small children.
Since the passing of his mother, Faishal has been growing ever more inward. According to his grandmother, Marfuah, 62, nowadays he spends most of his extracurricular time in the mosque, praying or playing on the yard, or in the madrasa, learning to recite the Quran.
“He used to enjoy running kites, but he stopped when he heard a boy from around here was hit by a car,” says Marfuah. She adds that Faishal’s closeness to his cousins has helped him socially, but the light in him has gone out.
For all the misfortunes in his life, Faishal has a loving support system in his grandmother, who has practically raised him and his two younger siblings all their lives. “In this sense, Faishal couldn’t be with better caretakers,” says Moesyafi’i, a staff member from the local Social Affairs Office seconded to PKSAI Tulungagung, a UNICEF-supported integrated children’s social welfare center. “But they are old. If they get ill or die, who’s going to look after their grandchildren?”
A Safe and Friendly Environment for Children
For all the support of family and community, Hayfa and Faishal are not yet entered into the Ministry of Social Affairs’ database for social protection. Despite help from the neighbours, the mosque and the local orphanage, their families need cash, basic food, health care and educational funding on a regular basis.
To this end, UNICEF is working with the government in a joint programme called Safe4C (Safe and Friendly Environment for Children). It is aimed at identifying children like Hayfa and Faishal who are in dire need of support, providing accessible child welfare and protection services to vulnerable children and their caregivers, disseminating key messages on good parenting practices and helping children improve life skills.
Currently, both Ismayati and Moesyafi’i are helping Hayfa and Faishal access free government health insurance and the ‘smart-college’ educational subsidy through PKSAI Tulungagung.
“My biggest fear for Faishal is the future of his schooling,” says Moesyafi’i.
Ismayati also worries about Hayfa after observing changes to her behaviour and noticing that she is less cheerful than before. “Psychosocial support will be essential,” she says.
How You Can Help
Thanks to the generous contributions of individual donors, UNICEF has been able to work with social workers, women empowerment and child protection officials, schools, health and community centres and caregivers across Indonesia to help alleviate the vulnerability and improve the well-being of children orphaned by COVID-19.
With increased capacity, we could have helped children like Hayfa and Faishal obtain access to support faster and in a more sustained way. We could also better support caregivers in their parenting roles and increase their awareness of the importance of education. For this we need your help.
If you want to help keep our vulnerable children safe and build them a bright future, please consider donating to UNICEF. We very much appreciate your contribution.