Covid-19 related violence, abuses a blot as Kenya marks world elder abuse day

Carole Osero Ageng'o, Regional Director, HelpAge

Challenges older people are facing

  • Rising abuse during coronavirus crisis
  • Robberies, kidnapping and domestic violence
  • Being left to die when suffering from COVID-19

Nairobi, 15 June 2020: Kenya joins the rest of the world to mark the World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD) amidst a sluggish response to violence, abuses and neglect against older women and men as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD) is observed on June 15 every year. It raises awareness on elder abuse and highlights ways to address the plight of affected older persons.

“The World Elder Abuse Awareness Day provides anopportunity for families, communities and policy makers around the world to promote a better understanding of the abuse and neglect of older persons by raising awareness on the interaction of the cultural, social, economic, political and demographic issues that perpetuate neglect, abuse and violence against older persons,” said Carole Ageng’o, HelpAge International Regional Director.

She said neglect, abuse and violence against older persons have resulted in the discrimination against older persons and their ultimate exclusion from public processes, laws, policies and services.  “A majority of older persons live in abject poverty compromising their wellbeing, dignity and quality of life,” she said

But unlike previous celebrations, the Covid-19 pandemic will not allow masses of older people, government officials and Civil Society Organisations [CSOs] from gathering.

According to the anecdotal evidence, Covid-19 has amplified the problem of violence, abuse, and neglect of older people.

Before the Covid-19 pandemic, it was estimated that 1 in 6 older people, were subject to abuse. Emerging evidence indicates that this has sharply increased in many countries as a direct result of the pandemic.

For example, in Kenya, Mr Elias Kamande Kang’ethe, in his sixties and landowner in Zimmerman, Nairobi was kidnapped by a group of young men who demanded a ransom of Ksh 3 million for his release.  When the kidnappers realised that their mission wouldn’t work, they beat him up and left him for dead. Elias was known in the area as the point person for registering people rendered vulnerable by the Covid-19 crisis, and it has been reported that that the kidnappers suspected he had benefited from the fund.

Across the globe there have been reports of countries denying medical treatment to older people, choosing to prioritise younger patients ‘who have more chances of surviving the virus, or refusing to treat older people with symptoms similar to those of Covid-19 for fear of contracting the virus.

In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), HelpAge DRC learned that at least one older person had died after being taken off a ventilator to make way for another patient.

On 10 May, Souzi[1] took her 68-year-old grandfather to the hospital after he displayed Covid-19 symptoms.  When they arrived, he was put onto a ventilator to try and stabilise his breathing. Souzi went home to get him some food and returned shortly afterwards.

“About 30 minutes later, a hospital staff member took him off the ventilator saying it was for someone else. There were only three ventilators in the hospital and they were in great demand. Five minutes later, my grandfather died. I reported this to the staff, and one of them told me that they had to give the ventilator to a younger man who had been admitted as it is their policy to prioritise younger patients,” Souzi explained.

Souzi reported this instance to Anatole Bandu, the HelpAge DRC Country Representative who said: “Unfortunately, this is not the first instance of older people dying, as a result of ventilators being given to younger people. Sadly, older people are seen as dispensable in DRC.”

In Cameroon, Paa Mathieu, an older disabled man from Koa village in the Centre Region of Cameroon, who was suffering from pneumonia, started to cough and feel very tired. His sister took him to hospital. When they got there, Paa Mathieu recounted: “They did not take care of me, saying there is no bed for people like me.”

What is HelpAge doing to support older survivors and older people at risk of abuse?

HelpAge works with communities, supporting them to recognise and prevent elder abuse, and helps them to support older people to access safety and response services following abuse. This includes access to counselling and legal aid for older survivors. We also provide older people with the information they need to seek support in case of abuse.

About HelpAge International

HelpAge International is a global network of organisations promoting the right of all older people to lead dignified, healthy and secure lives. Our mission is to promote the wellbeing and inclusion of older women and men, and to reduce poverty and discrimination in later life.

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