Stakeholders in Nigeria call for urgent medical attention for older persons for their vulnerability to COVID-19 pandemic

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Abuja, 2 October, 2020 - To commemorate the 2020 UN International Day of Older Persons, the Permanent Secretary of Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, reiterated the commitment of the Federal Government towards ensuring the welfare of older persons in Nigeria saying that "the pandemics like COVID-19 places older persons at greater risk.”

The Permanent Secretary, Mr Basheer Nura Alkali shared the projection at a press conference held in Abuja on 30 September 2020 to commemorate the UN International Day of Older Persons. This year’s theme is, “Pandemics: Do They Change How We Address Age and Ageing?”, with a strong focus on COVID-19 pandemic and how it affects the older generation, considering that they are at higher risks.

Speaking to journalists, Mr Nura Alkali, in company of Dr Walter Kazadi Mulombo, the WHO Country Representative (WR) to Nigeria, noted that “Older persons are not only prone to the disease but also face physical, physiological and financial abuse, exploitation, and neglect.”

He also said older persons play significant roles in the society as leaders, roles models and custodians of tradition. Mr Alkali seized the opportunity to appreciate support by the UN, especially WHO, for elevating the importance of taking care of older persons and noted the progress and challenges in the realisation of the desired efforts.

In his remarks at the event, Dr Mulombo commended Nigeria's efforts towards instituting the integrated plans for older people saying the Nigeria is one of the countries that have instituted the policy for older people at an early age, using a multi-sectoral approach.

The WR urged Nigerians to protect their older persons in this pandemic season as they are most at risk of contracting the virus. He advised that the government to develop age-friendly environment and ensure that older people get the attention they need as well as services that go with those and urged them to always wear a mask and avoid crowded areas.

Dr Mulombo said WHO will continue to extend it support to the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, all other ministries and the Federal government of Nigeria to ensure that sustainable and equitable systems for providing long term care (home, communicates and institutions ) are developed for older persons to get the attention and services they need.

Restrictions on movement and gathering, social isolation of older people is also a concern. Therefore, the President of the Coalition of Societies for the Rights of Older People in Nigeria, Senator Eze Ajoku appealed to the government to implement policies which would adequately cater for both medical and social needs of older people. He said the pandemic should address the way Nigeria treat older persons as many have been suffering especially during the pandemic.

"Many are financially incapacitated and are not being given attention and care by the government. Also, many have no medical insurance and cannot afford the necessary treatment at old age. We appeal to the government a matter of necessity fashion out ways of addressing the plight of older persons”, he added.

The International Day of Older Persons is observed on October 1 each year. The day is celebrated to raise awareness about issues affecting the elderly, such as the biological ageing and abuse of older people. It is also a day to appreciate the contributions that older people make to society.

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