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COVID-19 among the elderly; Uganda’s record is better than other countries

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COVID-19 among the elderly; Uganda’s record is better than other countries

Minister for the eldery and disabled Sarah Kanyike

Whereas older persons have been the biggest casualties of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic in most countries, Uganda’s experience is a worthy of praise, perhaps.

According to Sarah Kanyike, the Minister of State for the Elderly and Disabled, only 14 older persons have saccumbed to COVID-19, representing just 9 percent of all COVID deaths in Uganda.

In terms of infections, older persons account for only 2.69%.

The figure is a vote of confidence for Ugandans and the entire health community for heeding the warnings about COVID.

Compared to other countries like the United States, Uganda’s performance is much better than that of the US where

8 out of 10 COVID-19-related deaths reported in the United States have been among adults aged 65 years and older.

Addressing journalists at the Uganda Media Centre on Wednesday ahead of the commemoration of the International Day of Older Persons slated for October 1, minister Kanyike however warned that the seemingly low percentage of COVID-19 deaths among the seniors, many older persons in Uganda have poor health seeking behaviors citing that they assume they are suffering from old age which may leave more cases go unreported.

“As government makes efforts to combat the pandemic, we should be mindful of the fact that older persons have been greatly affected,” Kanyike said.

“This is because, many older persons have several underlying health conditions like hypertension, diabetes, cardiac, renal, and respiratory problems among others that are common in old age,” she added.

The minister however, added that the elderly have also experienced difficulties in accessing health care and basic needs such as food hence exposing them to more health risks.

“This coupled with social distancing restrictions have left majority of these groups more at risks of increased health complication, isolation, lack of material and social support,” she said.

Meanwhile, she reveled that government through the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development is aware of all these limitations and is working to ensure that older persons’ rights and welfare are upheld.

“Government, through the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development developed Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), to sensitize older persons and their caregivers with the intention to safeguard them from the risks of infection and support caregivers on how they can continue to provide care to older persons while exercising precautions,” she said.

According to Kanyike, the Standard Operating Procedures for the elderly are meant to address concerns of stigma, discrimination and barriers to information, social services, health care, social inclusion, and education as an additional measure to existing guidelines issued by Ministry of Health and the President on protection of the population from contracting Corona Virus.

Meanwhile, the Minister reveled that the national rollout of the Senior Citizens Grant payments, under the Social Assistance Grants Empowerment (SAGE) which had been interrupted by the Covid-19 lockdown has been completed and that, through the home based enrolment exercise currently ongoing, every older person will be reached and served.

“The SAGE scheme has reworked its registration and payment processes to ensure that older persons receive their grants without being exposed to the risk of contracting the coronavirus,” she said.

“The programme is now present in all the 135 districts, including Kampala Capital City. Additionally, the Ministry is going ahead to reach out to older persons who missed out on the mass enrolment and subsequently could not access the Grant,” she added.

The payments are a continuation of national rollout launched by president Museveni during the International Women’s day celebrations in Mbale on March 8, 2020.

To benefit from the grants, one must be 80 years and above and registered with National Identification and Registration Authority (NIRA) and in possession of a valid ID, and not attached to any other government pension.

The minister also revealed that government is drafting the Older Persons Bill 2020 with the view to promoting elderly People’s lives and rights.

“This Bill is aimed at enacting a law that will enhance the rights of older persons. The Bill is now ready for submission to Cabinet,” she noted.

She however urged stakeholders to continuously and at all times uphold the rights of older persons more so in the COVID-19 responses which she says should mainstream older persons concerns to enable them pass through this pandemic.

“We are committed to continuously working with other stakeholders, Ministries and Agencies and at all times upholding the rights of Older Persons,” she said.

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