POKOK SENA, MALAYSIA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Thirty-three children in Malaysia have lost their parents or guardians to the Covid-19 pandemic, said the Malaysian Women, Family and Community Development Ministry.
Minister Datuk Seri Rina Mohd Harun said these children, who suddenly became orphans, would be assisted in terms of their social needs as well as given counselling to help them carry on with their lives.
"So far, according to the Health Ministry, 33 children have been identified," she said.
"We hope community leaders will inform us when they learn of children who have lost their parents," she told reporters after visiting Pokok Sena Children's Home on Friday (Aug 13).
Ms Rina said the children would be handed over to close relatives or next of kin who were willing and capable of taking care of them.
Otherwise, she said the children would be placed at child protection institutions or a children's shelter.
Among such institutions are the Pokok Sena RKK, Kedah; Taman Sinar Puteri Batu Gajah, Perak; Cheras TSP, Kuala Lumpur; Melaka Boys Home; Mini Kelantan RKK; Kota Kinabalu TSP, Sabah and Kuching TSP, Sarawak.
"The ministry has also identified alternative ways to help these children such as placing them under the care of suitable and qualified individuals," she said.
Commenting on Bella, a 13-year-old girl with Down syndrome who was allegedly abused recently, Ms Rina said her health had improved and the wounds on her body were gradually healing.
She said Bella was now under the custody of the Welfare Department.
According to Free Malaysia Today, the girl was placed under the custody of welfare centre owner Siti Bainun when the alleged abuse came to light.
"We have urged the authorities to solve the case as we want the perpetrators to be brought to justice immediately so that it will be a lesson to the public," she said.
The story of Bella went viral on social media after an individual revealed that the victim was recently found with burn marks on her chest, hands, neck and thighs in addition to several other injuries.