As the country marks the 2020 world elder abuse awareness day (WEAAD) celebrations, the outbreak of Covid 19 pandemic has exposed the senior citizens to various forms of abuse, due to the stigma associated with the highly contagious disease.
Going by recent reports the elderly people are increasingly being neglected, abandoned or abused and the emergence of Coronavirus has further aggravated the situation especially after it emerged that the aged were most vulnerable to the pandemic.
Covid 19 fatality patterns indicates that most of the elderly persons are more likely to succumb to the disease due to their waning immunity and for that fact health officials have recommended that they stay at home to avoid infection.
The Covid 19 social distance measures have however impacted negatively on the social lifestyle and in some instances led to abandoned and neglect in their attempt to maintain to keep a safe distance in isolation.
Some of the measures may lead to estranged family relations that affect the cohesiveness of the society and increased burden for community institutions to provide care to the neglected older persons.
“The COVID 19 pandemic is putting older persons at risk for it’s more than just a deadly disease, it has increased their risk of experiencing physical, emotional and financial abuse. It is imperative that the government and the public should take the responsibility to safeguard the senior citizens from this pandemic.” the Report says
The Ministry of Labour and Social Protection through the State Department for Social Protection has raised the red flag that Covid 19 is particularly deleterious to older adults, and there could be a massive increase in reports of elder abuse during the pandemic
The department expressed fears that recent reports indicates that Elder abuse may surge due to decreased quality of life, morbidity and mortality.
However the government through the department has promoted and secured the rights of the older persons by enacting Policies that provides an environment that recognizes, empowers, and facilitates their welfare.
The Establishment of a Cash Transfer Programme for Older Persons (OPCT) aged 70 years above is a game changer in ensuring that the welfare of senior citizens especially in the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic were safeguarded.
The department has also developed legislations that covers the management of Institutions for Older Persons to ensure that their rights were actualized as envisaged in the 2010 constitution.
Kenya intends to mark the 2020 Elders day in Kirinyaga County where a model home for older persons who have been abandoned, neglected or abused.
The home once in operation will be utilized to host vulnerable older persons rescued from incidences of either abuse, neglect or abandonment in need of care, support and protection However, due to the restrictions of movement of people and requirement to maintain social distance this has been put on hold until a later time when the pandemic will have been contained.
The Ministry enlisted at least 766,377 for the cash stipends during the January-April 2020 payment cycle when more than Ksh.10 Billion was allocated to cushion the elderly, orphans and other vulnerable households during the covid-19 pandemic.
Currently, a pilot project targeting 108,199 households has been carried out in the four counties under lockdown of Nairobi, Mombasa, Kwale and Kilifi, The amount being paid per beneficiary is Ksh. 2000 for every 2 weeks for the next 3 months.
Field officers in the Department of Social Development have also enhanced awareness platforms to communicate Covid-19 key messages to older persons to ensure their safety during the pandemic. These messages are being channeled through the existing community structures by 1,610 volunteer counselors enlisted in each of the 290 constituencies/ sub-counties in the country.
The Department is also working very closely with other relevant stakeholders such as organizations for older Persons (OPOs) to enhance awareness creation on the pandemic and ensure that the institutionalized older persons were protected.
It is in the light of the foregoing information that the Ministry in collaboration with other stakeholders, intends to observe 2020 WEAAD to heighten the awareness on the rights and safety for older persons.
The Ministry is also of involved in facilitating the process for the ratification of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights on the Rights of Older Persons in Africa.
The WEAAD marked annually on the 15th of June was set aside after United Nations Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing, which recognizes the significance of elder abuse as a public health and human rights issue.
It’s a day in the world voices its opposition to the abuse and suffering inflicted to some of our older persons in the society with the latest figures in Kenya indicating that the numbers of senior citizens have increased tenfold from 270,000 in 1949 to 2,740,515 going by the 2019 national population census.