Since this article was produced, the Kenyan government released Sh8.8 billion (about GBP 66 million) to over a million older people and people with disabilities under the Inua Jamii Social Protection Programme, and an additional Sh500 million (about GBP 3.7 million) in arrears. The money was paid out from Monday 20 April (respecting physical distancing) and we are happy to report that Esther has received her funds.
Nairobi, Wednesday April 16: The Kenyan Government must urgently pay out emergency funds promised to older people to help them through the COVID-19 lockdown, says HelpAge International Kenya today.
With an imminent total lock down, thousands of older people risk becoming destitute because the Government has not released the emergency 10 billion Kenya Shillings fund announced on 26 March- later increased to 12 billion- to assist the older people, severely disabled and orphans and vulnerable children.
This is compounded by the fact that payments due in March 2020 from another Government scheme, Inua Jamii Plus 70 for the older people and other vulnerable groups have not been paid.
“Older people are already at a higher risk to coronavirus and they fighting for survival without any financial support to enable them to safely access food and medication. The alarm bells are ringing in terms of food shortages, particularly in the urban areas,” said Erastus Maina, Country Programme Manager at HelpAge International Kenya.
A prime example of this is 85-year-old Esther Wamera from Eastland in Nairobi (pictured). She went to the bank, despite the lockdown, to collect her money because she was desperate. She was not aware that the funds had not been released.
Esther is part of a group of women who support each other through petty trading but currently have no means of earning any money because of the lockdown.
Esther explained: “As older people, we are extremely vulnerable to this virus, and the Government has made it even more risky for us, by failing to provide urgently-needed funds. We have given so much over the years. Now we need protection.”
HelpAge International Kenya is concerned about how older people like Esther will be able to access the money in a safe way once it is available.
“Older people normally flock to the banks to collect their money as soon as they hear the payments are available, but this is obviously not feasible in the current circumstances.
“We need to know what the government is doing to ensure that older people will receive their money without exposing them to risks to contacting the COVID-19 or exploitation or abuse. Measures should be put in place for those who aren’t able to access cash through bank accounts and mobile phones. We also need to know what is being done about education on handling of cash to avoid infections,” said Erastus Maina.
Esther, a member of the All Saints Cathedral Seniors’ Association, added: “I can’t understand why the Government and banks can’t work together to come up with an innovative solution to help us. In other countries, shops and services open at specific times with social distancing rules applied, so that older people, the most at risk from this virus, can get what they need”.
HelpAge Kenya is working with the Government to come up with a solution and hopes that this can be resolved as soon as possible.