ELDER PROTECTION AND CARE OF VULNERABLE PERSONS
Elder abuse is a single or repeated act, or lack of appropriate action, occurring within any relationship where there is an expectation of trust, which causes harm or distress to an older person. This type of violence constitutes a violation of human rights and includes physical, sexual, psychological, and emotional abuse; financial and material abuse; abandonment; neglect; and serious loss of dignity and respect.
DDF advocates for the prevention of elder violence and abuse in communities through sensitization and awareness campaigns, policy advice and established a platform (safe space) – called Seenagers Associations, this safe space gives the elderly a voice to speak about issues of concern to them.
We are currently implementing an Oxfam-Voice project on curtailing elder abuse in communities starting with the South East Zone Enugu State as a pilot community. The overall goal of the project is to establish policies that criminalize elder abuse at state level, as well as strengthen the capacities of elders and their care-givers. It is our wish to share as well as replicate some of the good practices of the above initiatives in other states across Nigeria.
- STRENGTHNENING THE VOICES OF THE ELDERLY
We seek to achieve this through (a) strengthening existing associations and creating platforms (safe space)s where the elderly can mingle with their peers and speak about issues that concern them without fear of being stigmatized or bullied; and (b) establishment of SEENAGERS ASSOCIATIONS (a platform for senior citizens aged from 60 years and above) in communities.
- IMPROVING THE HEALTH AND SOCIAL WELFARE OF THE ELDERLY/VULNERABLE PERSONS
Through partnerships with the health sector, DDF provides access to quality healthcare, medical outreach insurance facilities. DDF also trains the caregivers for vulnerable persons especially children, elderly and persons with disabilities.
- PROMOTING AND SUSTAINING ACCEPTANCE OF THE ELDERLY IN THE COMMUNITY
We sensitize members of the target communities about the importance of preventing elder abuse, as well as and the existence of Alzheimer’s disease. We also advocate for policies that will protect the rights of the Elders and criminalize elder abuse.
CURTAILING ELDER ABUSE IN 11 COMMUNITIES IN ENUGU STATE
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 15.7% of people 60 years and older are subjected to abuse. These prevalence rates are likely to be underestimated as many cases of elder abuse are not reported.
In Nigeria, people in villages are largely ignorant of the causes of age-induced ailments/disability caused by memory loss, especially Alzheimer’s disease which makes people “act strange”. Although not all memory loss indicates Alzheimer’s disease, one in ten people over 65 years of age, and over half of those over 85 have Alzheimer’s disease.
It is widely speculated that elderly people in many local communities suffer a lot of abuse/physical torture in secret. Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is not well known in local communities therefore the elderly persons who suffer from it are often misconstrued as “mad” persons and in some extreme case are labelled as “witches” due to their “mental disability” caused by the disease.
Dewdrop Foundation and Centre for Gender Economics Africa (CGE) therefore embarking on the project; CURTAILING ELDER ABUSE IN COMMUNITIES to ascertain the degree of elder abuse in ten pilot communities in Enugu State, using sensitization campaigns to publicize this issue, enrich the lives of the elderly through access to social amenities, capacity building for their caregivers, and to create a platform for community members to sustain the program in each community.
Enugu State was selected as a pilot because of the rate of elder abuse in the State as well as the lack of legislation to protect elderly people and improve their welfare.
The project will strengthen the elderly by giving them “a voice” and granting them access to social support systems through the establishment of “Seenagers’ Associations” in ten selected communities. The selected communities are: Umuode, Akpuoga-Nike, AmechiIdodo, Isigwe Ugbawka, Ndiagu-Owo, Ogonogoeji Ndiuno Akpugo, Ogbeke/UkurutaAgbani, Ojiagu Agbani, Ishienu Nkerefi, Akwuke and Akwuke-Uwani.
Engaging with project stakeholders: Activities used to engage with the target groups of the project are door to door visits to elderly persons in the target communities, medical check-ups and physical exercises, consultative meetings with Traditional Rulers in 11 and President Generals (PGs) of the Town Unions for their support and community mobilization, meetings with the top decision-makers in the three arms of government: Executive, Legislature and the Judiciary for their buy-in on effecting a policy on criminalizing elder abuse in Enugu State, meetings with top stakeholders at the State level e.g. Commissioner for Social Welfare etc., and working with local community mobilizers for data collection and facilitating meetings with the Seenagers.
Major Challenges: The major challenges encountered in reaching out to the target groups have been dialect barriers (the elder group who speak little or no English do not understand clearly other dialects of the Igbo language, which is the major language for the project, thus the project has to rely on indigenous project team members for translation), difficult terrains; some of the roads to the villages have been destroyed by erosion so it takes longer to reach some communities (such as Amechi Idodo), and previous negative encounters with politicians who made unfulfilled promises during the political campaign season created lack of interest initially, and some derisive comments about the project.
Lessons emerging from project implementation:
- Mindsets can change with adequate sensitization and with mindset change, comes behavioral change. On medical mission visits, it was observed that the major complaint of the elderly is about their total well-being and to this end the team planned for regular (monthly) medical missions in the communities in consultation with a doctor, nurses, a physiotherapist and a nutritionist to equip them with knowledge that will keep them strong and energized. The regular visits helped changed the perception of the elder community that no one cares about their welfare.
- There was the need to identify the market days and sacred days of each community so as to facilitate proper planning of these visits.
- Town Crying is still an effective means of community mobilization. We learnt this when we were mobilizing for the consultative forums in the project communities.
Curtailing Elder Abuse: In the News
- Civil Society Group Decry Lack of Care: https://www.newsbargeafrica.com/2019/09/civil-society-group-decry-lack-of-care.html?m=1
- Group Decries Neglect of Nigerian Elders https://punchng.com/group-decries-neglect-of-nigerian-elders/
- CGE Trains 30 Journalists for Curtailing Elders Abuse https://www.newsbargeafrica.com/2019/09/ddf-cge-train-30-for-curtailing-elder.html?m=1
- Group Expresses Worry Over Neglect and Abuse of Nigeria’s Elderly People http://www.africanexaminer.com/group-expresses-worry-over-neglect-abuse-of-nigerias-elderly-people/
- NGOs to Partner in Dealing with Abuse of the Elderly https://www.bloverse.com/posts/ng-os-to-partner-in-dealing-with-abuse-of-the-elderly
- Why We Are Reviving Old Persons in 10 Enugu Communities https://www.dailytrust.com.ng/why-were-reviving-old-people-in-10-enugu-communities-ngos.html
- Abuse on Elderly People: Group Takes Campaign to Enugu Communities https://dailypost.ng/2019/10/04/abuse-elderly-people-group-takes-campaign-enugu-communities/
- CGE and DDF Embark on Data Collection https://www.newsbargeafrica.com/2019/10/cge-and-ddf-embark-on-data-collection_8.html?m=1
- NGO raises Alarm over increasing abuse of the elderly – (Dome TV) https://dometvng.com/2019/09/13/ngo-raises-alarm-over-increasing-abuse-of-the-elderly/
- NGOs step up campaign against elder abuse in Enugu – https://dometvng.com/ngos-step-up-campaign-against-elder-abuse-in-enugu/
- Urban Radio https://raddio.net/304039-urban-radio-945/
- Radio Nigeria, Enugu – ‘The Burden of being Old‘ (Commentary)
- Enugu Assembly will Initiate Bill on Welfare of the Elderly – Deputy Speaker https://sundiatapost.com/enugu-assembly-will-initiate-bill-on-welfare-of-elderly-deputy-speaker
Results so far
- As a result of the project, the marginalized and discriminated groups have begun to gain confidence in speaking out about the issues that affect them. They are also receiving medical attention and as such their belief that they have been abandoned or are not adequately cared for has begun to change.
- 11 safe spaces created in 11 communities, for elders to speak up about issues of concern to them (Seenagers Associations).
- At least 660 elders’ (Seenagers) awareness raised about their human rights, personal hygiene, ageing and life-cycle management.
- 300 elders receiving medical attention and access to medical facilities.
- Baseline Survey conducted on elderly abuse in Enugu State.
- One policy brief on criminalizing elder abuse, drafted and presented to the Governor of Enugu State, for the inclusion of elders in the State.