KUALA LUMPUR: Muhammad Haidir Rodzi recalled the sadness he felt when his parents succumbed to COVID-19 in quick succession, leaving him to take over the care of his four younger siblings.
Mr Muhammad Haidir, 23, who works as an operator filling cooking gas tanks, recounted how his late father had first developed a fever in late May this year.
Soon after, he tested positive for COVID-19 at the local hospital in Port Dickson and was transferred to a larger hospital in Tampin.
“However, we got a shock phone call that our father had passed away,” Mr Muhammad Haidir said.
After that, his mother also contracted COVID-19. She had a high fever and a cough, before succumbing to the illness.
“I felt very sad, but at the same time, I had to be strong too, because I saw the grief my siblings were going through,” he said.
“I had to be stronger, more composed, to be an example to my brothers and sister.”
Mr Muhammad Haidir and his siblings also tested positive, but only experienced light symptoms and were able to self-isolate at their home in Port Dickson.
For families like Mr Muhammad Haidir’s who lost at least one parent or guardian to COVID-19, such a loss can be devastating amid the economic and social uncertainty.
Responding to a question in parliament, Minister for Women, Family and Social Development Rina Harun said on Sep 20 that 4,422 children under the age of 18 had lost at least a parent or guardian to COVID-19. Of this number, 154 had lost both parents, she said.
On Oct 10, Deputy Minister for Women, Family and Social Development Siti Zailah Mohd Yusoff was reported as saying that the number of children who lost at least a parent or guardian has increased to 4,696 as at the end of September. She did not provide an updated figure on those who have been orphaned.
There are now more than 2.4 million COVID-19 cases in Malaysia, with over 28,000 deaths.
There have been various accounts of children who suddenly lost their parents to COVID-19 and the heartwarming actions of those who helped them.
For these children, their immediate and extended families are usually the first ones who step up to care for them.
Meanwhile, assistance has also been extended by both the government and the community at large.
Financial aid and programmes aside, psychologists interviewed by CNA noted that the pandemic has sparked drastic change in the children’s lifestyles and routines, and this could amplify the mental health risk factors.