Preventing elder abuse in the Democratic Republic of Congo
On World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, 15 June, HelpAge organised an event in collaboration with CAEPA (Collective Associations for People of the Third Age). Over 100 older men and women took part. Stéphanie Mukendi, Protection Adviser for HelpAge in the Democratics Republic of Congo (DRC) said: "15 June is a yearly opportunity for states to be made aware of the rights of older people."
Elder abuse is a phenomenon that affects the rights and health of millions of older people worldwide and deserves the attention of the international community. Many older people who suffer abuse are, as a result, even more vulnerable and marginalised from society. They are also more susceptible to physiological and psychological illnesses.
Older people lack healthcare, food and housing
In the DRC, older people all over the country whether they receive a pension or have insurance are neglected by the government. Older people make up around 3.5% of the country's population. Not all are considered vulnerable, but most definitely do not live in decent conditions due to many reasons, including on-going instability. Older people also lack adequate healthcare, food and housing. Many older people live in abandoned buildings, markets and railway stations, without basic hygiene or sanitation.
The event organised was attended by representatives from the Division of Social Affairs and Goma province. The proceedings kicked off with an opening prayer and opening remarks by local organisation, CAEPA.
A representative from the Division of Social Affairs then gave a message about our obligations to older people. She then pledged to stop older people paying any taxes, saying that they were a vulnerable group in society and should not have to. She also raised the issue of providing land to accommodate a social centre for older people in Goma town and Beni.
Call for older people's rights to be respected
Finally, she advised older people to share their experiences and knowledge with us. This, she said would help us all, including young people, and teach good habits. The older people there also presented the activities they have been doing to earn a living.
Before the event, the representative had been presented with a letter, which demanded that older people's rights be respected by Congolese law. Also in the memorandum was a call on the government to return peace to the area of North Kivu, so that older people could return to their homes and livestock, which are at the moment still under the control of rebels. First hand testimonies from older people who had experienced elder abuse were also presented at the meeting.
The whole event was covered by the media, including two television channels and two radio stations, which is a great success in our aim to raise awareness of the issues of elder abuse.
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