Uganda gov’t urged to integrate older refugees in Covid-19 response

Refugee association in Uganda

Kampala – 20 June 2020: The government of Uganda needs to mainstream the issues of older refugees into its older people policy formulation and implementation if response to Covid-19 is to reach older refugees, HelpAge International, its networks and partners in Uganda have said.

On this year’s Word Refugee Day, Emily Kemigisha, Country Representative for HelpAge International in Uganda, has called on the government “to specially” reach out to “older women and men in the refugee camps as the group with the highest primary needs in this crisis.” 

Uganda has received accolades for its progressive open-door border policies that have seen the influx of millions of refugees from neighboring countries. But Emily Kemigisha has highlighted longstanding issues with older people being excluded in the humanitarian response.

Covid-19 presents specific risks for older people. This is more so for older refugees living in camps where health care and equipment, including Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and referral services, may not be optimal.

“If the government is to meet the humanitarian needs of older refugees and save lives, this has to change with the Covid-19 response. Older refugee ought to be included in leadership structures to participate in decision-making processes,” said Frederick Bwire, CEO of Uganda Reach the Aged Association.

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“On this World Refugee Day, it must dawn on all that everyone counts in the fight against Covid-19. The United Nations (UN) has called for us to work together to ensure that every human being is protected and included in the response to this crisis. Everyone, regardless of their social or economic status, deserves to be treated with dignity and respect. Everyone must have access to basic human rights. Everyone has a role to play in society.”

Joseph Kwitino, an older refugee at the Maji II Refugee Resettlement in Adjumani and a volunteer older people monitoring Group in the camp, said the older people are essentially challenged by three major problems; insufficient food, health and reduced or diminishing dignity.

Ninety-five percent of those who have died from Covid-19 in Europe were over 60, and more than half of those were over 80.

Initial research in China, based on over 44,000 cases of Covid-19, showed a mortality rate of 2.3% for the general population, rising to 8% in those aged 70-79 and nearly 15% in those 80 and over.

HelpAge and other age-care institutions that advocate for the rights of older people urged the UN OCHA to recognise older people explicitly alongside other population groups considered “most-affected and at risk” and respond to older people’s needs in Covid-19.

In Uganda, HelpAge International has been implementing an EU-funded multi country project through its network member the Uganda Reach the Aged Association in Adjumani that targeted Older South Sudanese migrants.

The project has mobilised and built the capacities of older persons, provide protection-related support and promoted inclusive programming among humanitarian actors. The project also influenced respective governments to ratify the African Union protocol on the rights of Older Persons in Africa, promote the protection, contribution and participation of older people in society.

In conjunction with the Department of Elderly and Disability, Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development (MoGLSD), HelpAge International has financially and technically supported the establishment of the AU Protocol working group comprised of various Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs).

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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