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Image: Altaf Qadri / AP Photo. Multiple funeral pyres of victims of COVID-19 burn in a New Delhi area converted for mass cremation April 24.

While the first world surfs a third wave with the shores of vaccinations in sight, India is being flooded by a second wave tsunami of Covid infections. It is not just the hundreds of thousands of cases everyday – it’s the thousands upon thousands of orphans left behind in the wake of dying parents!

Monica Noland reports that states have begun “deploying officials to identify children orphaned during the pandemic.” Even more disturbing is that Child advocates are alarmed by the potential of child trafficking while many children are alone and vulnerable:

Against the backdrop of the chaos of an overwhelmed health system and hundreds of thousands of destroyed families, another worrying problem with childcare emerges.

In the past few weeks, child welfare agencies have noticed an alarming trend on social media: hundreds of posts on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter illegally offering children up for adoption. While some of these agencies were requests to help children who recently lost their parents to COVID-19, most appeared to be illegal adoption and child trafficking that claimed to be helping orphaned children.

Organized Crime and Disorganized Opportunists

Like something out of a Charles Dickens novel, the most vulnerable are preyed upon in the most unspeakable ways. Priyank Kanoongo, chairman of the National Commission for the Protection of the Rights of the Child (NCPCR), says:

At this point, no child should be pushed into hasty adoption that could lead to further disruption. It is important to note that behind the adoption charity, there is often organized crime and a range of violations behind.”

Indeed, along with a wave of parent loss, the floodgates have opened to further violations. Ms. Kapoor, who works in deeply impoverished areas in 50 slums in Delhi, noticed an increase in child abuse from mid-March.

“We have come across cases where the mother was lost to COVID and the father trafficked the child. Incest cases have surfaced – fathers rape their daughters, brothers abuse their sisters. The severity of the cases has multiplied and is heartbreaking even for teams that have dealt with children’s rights violations in the past decade.

For more see: “India’s tide of COVID-19 deaths leaves huge numbers of orphaned children in its wake.

The Breakdown of Society?

It would be naive to think this is unique to India. It is not; around the globe are variations on these trends. All this from a microscopic virus? Its not just getting sick, not just dying, not just lingering health issues, not just impoverishment heaped upon impoverishment… it is orphaning and trafficking and exploiting. 

The brunt of exploitation is predominantly visited upon women and young girls… as usual.

I don’t recall anyone predicting this last year when we were beginning to notice the gravity of the pandemic. But now that we feel the weight upon us, it is a chaos beyond imagination.

Beyond the Tsunami – Beyond the Blizzard

But there were a few who were predictive last year. On March 20, 2020, Andy Crouch, Kurt Keilhacker, and Dave Blanchard posted what has become a prescient article for our times: “Leading Beyond the Blizzard; Why Every Organization is now a Startup“.

We’re not going back to normal. If you’re a leader in an organization, it is time to rewrite your vision deck — that presentation so many organizations have that summarizes who you are, whom you serve, why you serve them, and what you do and how you do it… this is a time to urgently redesign our work in light of what we believe is not just a weeks-long “blizzard,” not even just a months-long “winter,” but something closer to the beginning of a 12–18 month “ice age” in which many assumptions and approaches must change for good.

Changing for Good

But this is also a time for vision and hope…

The strange heart of Christian faith is that these are not separate realities. Grief and loss go together in Christian faith with vision and hope in a singular way, because they are the story of Cross and Resurrection…

Christian creativity begins with grief — the grief of a world gone wrong. It enfolds it in lament — the loud cry of Good Friday, the silence of Holy Saturday — and still comes to the tomb early Sunday morning. We are burying and saying goodbye to so much in these days, and around the world people are burying and saying goodbye to those they loved. But we do not grieve without hope. If we grieve with Jesus, and make room for others to grieve, we can hope to be visited by the Comforter, the Spirit who breathed over creation before it was even formed. And that Spirit will guide us in the choices we have to make, even on the hardest days that are ahead.”

What Changes will You make for Good?

For more see “India’s Christians ask for Prayer as Virus Overwhelms Crematoriums.”

To read about others who have made “changes for good”, read “These Moms Won’t Miss the Pandemic. But Their Quarantine Habits Are Keepers.”

In a dramatic twist of fate, my home province of Alberta is experiencing an infection rate higher than that of India. Recently Mayor Naheed Nenshi of Calgary stated:

“We’re hearing about India on the front of the news, every single day, how awful the situation is. Here’s something I need you to know – the infection rate in India is approximately 200 people per 100,000. In Calgary today, it’s 520 people per 100,000. It’s twice as bad.”

Yet with our “twice as bad” infection rate, we will not see the collapse of infrastructure, or the onslaught of exploitation that this pandemic has wreaked in India. Here is a false equivalency since the wealth of the west tends to produce margins for excess. Yes, it is all bad; no, it is not all catastrophic… yet.

The question remains: what changes will we make for good while we can?


Funeral pyres are lit by the Ganges in Allahabad, where bodies have been washing downstream for days. Getty Images.

On May 19, the BBC reported the Ganges has been swollen with bodies in recent days.

“Hundreds of corpses have been found floating in the river or buried in the sand of its banks. Those who live close to where they have washed up, in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, fear they are Covid-19 victims.
India has been overwhelmed by a devastating second wave of the pandemic in recent weeks. It has recorded more than 25 million cases and 275,000 deaths, but experts say the real death toll is several times higher.
The bodies on the river banks, taken together with funeral pyres burning round-the-clock and cremation grounds running out of space, tell the story of a death toll unseen and unacknowledged in official data.”