Kenyan campaigners urge support for the elderly at risk of COVID-19


Kenya should hasten deployment of cash stipends to help the elderly population weather disruptions to their livelihoods triggered by COVID-19 pandemic, campaigners said Thursday.

Erastus Maina, country program manager of HelpAge International, an international charity, said that senior citizens whose vulnerability to the viral respiratory disease is higher, deserve support from the government to cushion them from hardships.

“Older people are already at higher risk to the disease, and they are fighting for survival and need financial support to enable them to safely access food and medication,” Maina said in a statement issued in Nairobi.

He said that the elderly population in urban areas is staring at a looming food insecurity as supply chains are disrupted in the wake of COVID-19 that has claimed 10 lives in Kenya and affected 225 people.

“The alarm bells are ringing in terms of food shortages, particularly in urban areas,” said Maina, adding that restricted movements aimed at halting spread of the virus is having a psychological toll on older persons.

President Uhuru Kenyatta in March announced an emergency fund totaling 12 billion shillings (about 120 million U.S. dollars) to cater for the elderly, orphans, the disabled and terminally ill citizens at risk of negative impacts of COVID-19 disease.

Kenyatta said the government will ensure that vulnerable population including the aged and low-income earners will benefit from tax waivers on necessities such as food, rent and medication.

Esther Wamera, an 85-year-old member of a Nairobi-based grassroots lobby group, said that senior citizens require robust social safety nets amid disruptions caused by COVID-19 outbreak.

“As older people, our vulnerability to the novel coronavirus has worsened and that is why material and psychosocial support is urgent to enable us to cope with the new disruptions to our daily lives,” said Wamera.

She said that the majority of older people are unable to engage in income-generating activities as lockdowns and other anti-COVID-19 containment measures take shape.

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