Uganda's Older Persons Decry Government Neglect

2246 Views Kampala, Uganda
As the world marks International Day of Older Persons today, the Ugandan government has been called upon to take real action to promote the participation and dignity of older persons in the country.

International Day of Older Persons is commemorated on October 1st every year to draw attention to the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing that committed signatory states to eliminating all forms of discrimination against older persons.

In the Madrid International Plan of Action, signatory states recognized that older persons should enjoy a life of fulfillment, health, security and active participation in the economic, social, cultural and political life of their societies. They also determined to enhance the recognition of the dignity of older persons and to eliminate all forms of neglect, abuse and violence.

However in Uganda, the situation for older persons is far from ideal.

86-year-old Michael Emokori says he fled his home in Soroti because of military insecurity. A former member of the colonial army, the Kings African Rifles, Smoker arrived in Kampala with a handful of belongings and found a new home on the streets of the capital, just outside Christ the King Church.

Emokori says he intended to pursue the payment of his pension from the British government, but was unsuccessful. He was ignored and shunned by government and the public and only received help when an Italian man living in Kampala took him to the Mapeera Bakateyamba Home in Nalukolongo.

Emokori is reluctant to talk about his family. He says he has four children, but prefers to stay at the home in Nalukolongo because he and the 77 other older persons in residence, are able to receive good care there.

The Mapeera Bakateyamba Home was established by the late Cardinal Emmanuel Nsubuga to cater for the disabled and the aged.

Michael Emokori says that despite his old age, he is still useful to society and hopes to do something gainful with is life. Although he may not be able to take on physically strenuous jobs, he says that government should provide finances to older persons to engage in small money-making projects like poultry that would help them raise an income.

Teresa Mbattude, who has lived at the Mapeera Bakateyamba Home for the last 23 years, agrees with Emokori.

Mbatudde is crippled and at 68 years she is unable to weave mats for sale like she used to do in her youth. She says older persons are ignored by government, which does not provide for their basic needs. She wants older persons to receive government assistance for food and Medicare.

Sister Theresa Basemera, the administrator of Mapeera Bakateyamba Home, says that despite being the only home for the elderly in Uganda, it does not receive any funding from government. She says the home takes care of a large number of Ugandans who have been abandoned by their families or lost their relatives to war and disease.

The home also caters for a large number of people from Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo and Tanzania. The oldest of them is a Congolese man called Fideri, who is 108 years old.

Sister Basemera says the home is managed by the Good Samaritan Sisters with financial support from the Catholic Church and individual donors.

//Cue in: iMost of them #i
Cue out: i# to their homes.i//

Sister Basemera wants Government to consider planning for financial support for Mapeera Bakateyamba Home. She says government only uses it as a dumping ground for the disadvantaged, a situation that would change if it ploughed finances into developmental projects like piggeries and farming to help the home generate revenue for its operation.

//Cue in: iThe number is growing #i
Cue out: i# they should contribute something.i//

According to the Local Government Act Older persons are supposed to have representatives of male and female at local councils. Government is also mandated to establish a National Council for Older Persons.