Concerns have been raised over the possibility of exclusion of older persons in the palliatives planned as part of measures to cushion the effect of Covid-19.
In a press statement, signed by the Executive Director, Dave Omokaro foundation, Dr Emem Omokaro, the foundation lamented the fact that such moves by government in the past have been laced with discrimination based on age and excluded older persons.
“The Dave Omokaro Foundation and the Gerontology Association of Nigeria express concern about how the government would ensure, that poor Nigerians, hitherto not captured in the current operating data base.are not Left Behind “. that discrimination on the bases of age, gender, disability ethnicity and location be checked and a proper mechanism that would guarantee the reach of those furthest from the first be firstly put in place”.
Dr Omokaro commended the Federal Government for its swift response to the plight of the vulnerable in the face of the lockdown.
“The Federal government is moving with speed to iimplement the recently announced social investment palliative for poor Nigerians, to cushion the socio- economic pressure of the lockdown to combat the spread of COVID-19”.
“The Dave Omokaro Foundation and the Gerontology Association of Nigeria wish to appreciate the Federal government for the interventions and to speak to the necessity of a well thought out and all – inclusive implementation framework and stakeholder engagement mechanism”.
She expressed concern that the interest of older persons is not protected by the already existing social protection framework .
“National Policy on Social Protection provides the framework for the implementation of the current National Social Investment programs”.
“Specifically, in it’s current form, the implementation of the social protection programs has no social assistance or market Labor programs dedicated to poor senior citizens; the Senior citizens Act signed in 2018 still has no strategic implementation plan and therefore, there are no health care , economic empowerment or social pensions programs for senior citizens as legislated”.
” There are obvious gaps in the existing Social Investment Program approach to cash transfers, which targets Poor Households,which leave older household members falling through the cracks”.
According to her, “the current approach makes the assumption about non- discrimination of older persons and neglects the chronic health condition and the out of pocket expenditure on health care” .
” Research has shown that less than 2% of older persons within the households receive the intended benefits . The N5,000 per month given for household empowerment with the prevailing ageist attitude towards older members of the household, minimizes, their chances of being direct recipients”.
“It is on this note that the Dave Omokaro Foundation and Gerontology Association of Nigeria ( GERAN) present a special appeal to the President and the Federal government apoaratu in charge of dispensing the palliatives, to consider older persons as a special category for the COVID- 19 social assistance”.
Dr Omokaro emphasized the need to provide palliatives for older persons.
‘ Information gathered from the experiences of other countries, has exposed the severe risk older persons more than other demographics face.should they contract COVID -19 and also spot -lighted the health and socio-economic inequalities older persons encounter” .
” More than ever before, government should take deliberate steps to check age discrimination by ensuring that the palliative measures target older person in the short term while instituting a dedicated Social pensions – (old age grant) for means tested poor and vulnerable older persons in Nigeria just as it does for children, youth and business owners”.
She appealed to government to extend the social safety net to embrace older persons at this crucial time.