By Sarah Marzouk
HelpAge International in Mozambique is working and sharing experiences with governments from across Africa to tackle poverty in old age.
On 20-22 June, 150 representatives from 15 governments met in Maputo, Mozambique to discuss the best ways of fighting poverty on the continent.
(c) Bethan Emmett/HelpAge International HelpAge took this opportunity to host a special session on providing secure incomes for older people, in partnership with the Mozambican Ministry of Women and Social Action, the African and Mozambican Civil Society Platforms for Social Protection, Save the Children and Handicap International.
Cash payments help older people and their families
Governments in Swaziland, Lesotho, Namibia, Uganda and Mozambique noted that small but regular cash payments are helping older people and their families to eat better, send their grandchildren to school as well as invest in their farms and livelihoods.
Mozambique has one of the oldest such programmes in Africa. Since the 1990s, the government has paid a small monthly cash payment of around US$5-10 to poor older people, people with disabilities, the chronically sick and the children they care for.
This programme reaches 267,000 older people and their families, enabling them to survive difficult periods, buy medicines, school uniforms and even goats and chickens to improve their income.
Programmes still not reaching poorest
More progress is needed however to ensure these programmes reach the poorest. Often older people are excluded from programmes targeted at them due to lack of information or the right documentation, or because of discrimination.
HelpAge has been tackling these problems by working with the Government of Mozambique to improve the delivery of cash transfers. We have trained volunteers and community groups to identify eligible households, provide older people with official identity documents and help them fill out registration forms.
We have also ensured that the cash payment points are within walking distance, which is crucial for older people, people with disabilities or chronic sickness who cannot travel long distances. Our work has helped an extra 2,000 older people access the government’s cash transfer.
Tackling old age poverty
The delegates present shared important lessons in tackling old age poverty in the region. In Uganda, the government is working to reduce elder abuse and accusations of witchcraft by training social gerontologists to educate and raise awareness with local government and communities.
In Cape Verde, Mauritius and Namibia, governments have found that giving regular cash transfers or social pensions to older people supports the large numbers of orphans and vulnerable children left behind by HIV and AIDS.
Commitment to collaboration
The event brought a commitment from the Minister of Women and Social Action from Mozambique to work with civil society and partners and ensure more people living in poverty receive life-saving cash transfers and services.
This commitment was boosted last week by an announcement from the International Monetary Fund representative for Mozambique, Victor Lledó. He stated that doubling the government financing for such social protection programmes was feasible and necessary to tackle high rates of poverty and malnutrition which persist in Mozambique.