Are we taking care of Malawi senior citizens?

Globally, the population is ageing and Malawi is no exception. The 2008 Population and Housing Census showed that four percent of the Malawi population comprised people aged over 65 years old. Although in percentage terms this may seem small, in reality it means over 530 000 older people out of the 13.1 million people counted. We are not talking about faceless numbers here, these are real people.

Eldery need to help

Eldery need to help

Given that 80 percent of Malawians live in rural areas and rely on agriculture, most of these people may not even have a pension to look forward to at the middle of the month. This is further exacerbated by the inconvenient truth that as we grow older we are not able to carry out activities required for one to lead an independent life. This calls for a rethink in the way that, as a country, we look after the welfare of our senior citizens.

Recent research has shown that the elderly in Malawi have been dependent on the economic and social support of their children and the community. With changing socio-economic dynamics and family ties in Malawi, children are increasingly failing to look after their ageing parents. Similarly, communities are failing to provide for the needs of the elderly.

Lately, Malawi has seen a growing interest in the rights of special or minority groups. This is commendable. However, the human rights and welfare of the elderly is a topic that is generally neglected and the level of awareness of the predicament of the elderly is relatively low.

The most vulnerable among the elderly are the poor and disadvantaged ones who are deemed as silent recipients of aid by public policy. It is worth noting that there have been commendable steps in a bid to alleviate the elderly’s socio-economic hardship in the country. The establishment of a Ministry Responsible for Persons with Disabilities and the Elderly in 1998 and former president Bingu  wa Mutharika’s Silver Grey Foundation in 2007, as well as government’s formulation of the social protection policy, can be viewed as milestones in the welfare of the elderly. However, Malawi does not have a sound and comprehensive social protection programme tailored for the elderly.

The elderly in rural areas hardly benefit from programmes such as Malawi Rural Development Fund (Mardef) and the Farm Input Subsidy Programme (Fisp), further debilitating their already frail socio-economic security. There is, therefore, urgent need to explore the productive potential of the elderly as some are capable of investing their energies in informal economic activities, thereby promoting self-reliance. Otherwise, these people will continue being at the receiving end of help.

The elderly play a fundamental role in our societies today, such as caring for orphaned children, providing household income and providing wisdom.

Yet, older people are often excluded from development programmes and many services such as health care. In the health sector, the right-to-health approach is indispensable for the designing, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of health-related policies and programmes to enable older persons enjoy this right.

In contemporary Malawi and much of Africa it is therefore a common phenomenon that older poor people consult traditional healers as their first form of medical care since modern medicine is too expensive for them and sometimes too far that it’s difficult for them to reach the health services.

Sometimes the elderly are discriminated against at the medical institutions as they are treated with scorn and disregard, presumably for wasting medicine meant for younger people.  For example, you go to many hospitals in Malawi you will find children’s ward, male ward, female ward, maternity ward but you will hardly find a geriatric (old people’s) ward. This seriously begs for legislation for government to recognize this age group so that they can be treated with dignity and promote their rights while accessing the health care facilities.

The difficulties of the elderly in Malawi seem to get the wrong end of the stick.  For example, witchcraft accusations are rife in Malawi and the victims have often been the elderly, in particular women.

It is, therefore, necessary that Malawi revises the care, protection and support of the elderly. Proper legislation, elderly-tailored social policies to fit them and a rethink of our social perceptions towards the elderly are core to identifying their full potential and contributions to society as a whole.-Source: NPL

  • The author  Loveness Imaan is a lecturer in social work at the Catholic of University of Malawi but writes in her personal capacity.
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23 thoughts on “Are we taking care of Malawi senior citizens?”

  1. alukosyo says:

    It all boils down to how committed are we as parents to educate our siblings. when we are old it will be their turn to assist us. koma tikawalekelera lero zidxskhala zigawenga komanso osasamala makolo

  2. chilangwe says:

    thanks very much for writing about the senior cizrn plight in malawi .last week idid write about the same issue seing that malawi dont recognise the senior citizen as they are the ones who helped built this country in south africa senior citizen get monthly grants of over R1400 amonth and in namibia they get paid 1000 namibian dollar.just to mention a few.pls dont bring the excuse of malawi being a poor country cos even the newly elected namibian president said cut the government trips and expenditures in order for the senior citizen to get something .

  3. tomas didimo says:

    Well, Levi, you are such a breadth of fresh air. Food for thought for most of us, even at a personal level. What have we done to make a difference for the elderly?

  4. Sake Chilling says:

    One of the facts about Malawi that South Africans find difficult to comprehend is when you tell them that there is no “Social Grant” (as it is called in SA) for the elderly in Malawi. The next question you get from them is, “So how does the elderly survive”?

  5. kangaroo says:

    Comment Kodi maiko oyandikana ndi Ife amatani pa nkhani imeneyi ?

  6. ZOONA A BWANA PA ENA ANAMENYA NAO NKHONDO ZA ZIKULU-ZIKULU ZIJA ZIWILI AKUVUTIKA MU MALAWI MUNO, ALIBE CHILICHONSE, KOMA BOMA LIKWAONA, NDIPO LIKWAWAZIWA BWINO, KOMA SAFUNA KWAPASA NDALAMA ZAO NDI KWATHANDIZA, NDINSO ENA AMENYELA MA UFULU OSIYANASIYA KU CHOKERA KWA ASAMUNDA, NYASALANDE, MCP, UDF, DPP, PP, PALIBE CHINA CHILICHONSE CHOWATHANDIZA.
    KUIPA MA BOMA ONSE, CHAMAKA UDF DPP AND PP.

    MLUNGU ASUNGENI ONSE OSOWA NDIPO MWADALINSE NDI MPHANSO ZOSIYA-SIYANA

  7. Mzimba Solola says:

    I salute you. Government should look at this issue critically. Well articulated

  8. Penyani says:

    This is well written and to the point. And it brings one to question the representation of the rural population by the Mp’s they nominate as their representative. Are they or have they been proactive in this respect.

  9. Observer says:

    I doubt if the responsible Ministry/Department has the requisite capacity to address the plight of the elderly and disabled. One does not need to be at Capital Hill or in urban centres to appreciate this fact. Firstly, we need to determine whether or not structures and systems are in place for identifying the elderly or disabled where they are required. Do our local authorities have established structures and systems to enable them address the plight of these vulnerable groups? I commend Government for establishing the Office of the Elderly and People with Disabilities. The question that remains unanswered is the extent to which this function has been rolled out to local communities. What programmes have been introduced for these groups? I know there is a social cash transfer programme being implemented in selected districts. What about such groups found in districts where the programme is not being implemented? What mechanisms are used to identify beneficiaries including beneficiary districts? Can the responsible government entities also look at other social security issues such as facilities specifically designed for the disabled and the elderly? Consider special design of toilets/baths meant for elderly and disabled. CBOs should also play a role as they are doing with orphans. Instead of only operating orphanages, they should also consider operating homes for the elderly. If homes for the elderly were to be introduced coordination for their support would be effective. Issues of nutrition and home based health care services would be maximised.

  10. MBACHI says:

    Comment….THE PROBLEM WITH MALAWIANS EVERY ONE TAKES HIMSELF AS BETTER THAN EVERYBODY. JB PROGRAM WAS THE EASIEST TO PROVIDE HOUSES TO THE NEEDY. UNFORTUNATELY APM LOOKS AT IT AS NOT SUITABLE AND USELESS AND STARTS HIS OWN WHICH IS NOT POSSIBLE. IF MY OLD GRAND GETS LOAN OF HIS IRONSHEETS OR WHATEVER, WHERE IS SHE GOING TO GET THE MONEY TO BACK? STUPID.

  11. Issa Kabudula says:

    Levi Zeleza manda – mwalemba, this is one of the best researched piece of advice to all of us, government and NGOs and the church, to make plan for the future of the elders of Malawi. In western countries the elders are treated with a high esteem due to the wisdom and experience on the past events – ife we kill our wisdom and we care for internet and the web, the more we are in the web the more we are dizzy and lazy, we need every thing to be digital from advice to eating shame on us.

    Many countries and the previous state president Baba Bingu, may is soul rest in peace, brought new ideas of housing the elders (senior citizens) of Malawi, but many due to ignorance we criticised the man for no reason – another shame on us!!!!!!1

  12. zingaliwa says:

    Well written article, there is no better observation and analysis than this. Unfortunately our government may deliberately ignore this opting for policies that seem appealing to potential voters who are in majority!

  13. Afana APM says:

    If you hear some of us shout at APM when he wastes government time writing on walls and obsessed with wanting to arrest JB, it is because of serious issues like these.

    There is a lot that needs addressing in Malawi yet cabinet and its kahuna are busy wasting time on silly issues.

    Thank you for your article.

  14. Elanive Nginache says:

    its really time we put sustainable structures for our senior citizens. Gone are the days when it was easy for children to look after their parents zinthu pa Malawi pano sizilibwino.

  15. makito says:

    A Levi Zeleza Manda, this is a good topic and a noble cause you have advanced. However, as a scholar, your article lacks flow, things are mixed up, in some contradictory and illogical such that as a policy maker I wouldnt really get what you are recommending. Are you proposing activation measures for the elderly? But you said they are frail and cant do things that would lead to independent life. Is the problem more to do with resources?

    I suggest you undertake a deeper analysis of data so that clear policy recommendations cant be gleaned out.

    Otherwise, thumbs up.

  16. Prophet Justice says:

    Brilliant article, real issue. I wonder what the ministry of elderly really do specific for our senior citizens

  17. yohane says:

    Nkhaniyi ndi yabwino koma there is no need to desperate the older people from male ward. We problem of shortage of staffs in our clinics. Infrastructure is also shortage that’s why you see this issue solved in this way. Another thing is that most of malawi and we don’t think or plan for our next 15_20 years to come. Look at the business we offer at markets ! Munthu wankulu kumagulitsa mswachi ndi mpini wometera ndevu the whole day, next 30 years these people will bother govt with social transfers. Let’s start thinking differently, mtown ndimwabwino koma ngati ntchito yowoneka ndi maso palibe tiyeni kumudzi tikalime. The government should improve the market and roads which are vital in agriculture. Mulimi kulima zaka zambiri koma kukhalabe nyumba ya maudzu. Akulemera ndi akuluakulu a Tama and tobacco control commission. Alimi kukhalira my mphawi. Wake up farmers, komabe ngakhale talemba izi anthu ovutika Sawerenga because most of them don’t know how to read.find other means to communicate.love Malawi

  18. Rodriguas Latata says:

    An award winning article. Well articulated, very thoughful and realistic ideas. Minority rights does not mean gays/
    lesbians only as some civil societies make people believe. This is it.

  19. sothini says:

    Excellent story. After serving govt longest time, those taxes, retire @ 60 u re powerless really. U spend wholeday in ndalema chair reading bible.
    Govt recognize us in specialway on top of peanut pension or gratuity u give us.

  20. Nkhani yosamalira anthu okalamba yiyambile pa FAMILY LEVEL>> MUDZI LEVEL>>then pa T/A level>>District level>>Regional or National. Anthuwa poyamba aziwike kuti thandizo lipite kwa anthu oyenera. Kumbukilani kuti anthu okalmba ena akufa msanga ndi matenda ocilitsika. Chakudya ndi moyo!.

  21. Makina says:

    I personally find this to be a very important issue that requires urgent attention. The elderly in Malawi are afflicted in many different ways, and it is high time that government take right steps to their rescue. They are a treasure that as a nation, we need to cherish and protect, if not be proud of. Whenever I go out to my village, I feel pity for the sorry state in which these people live, but their problems are beyond my capacity. This is one other crucial area where tax payers money must be spent on. Those huge cashgate sums could be used for the care of these people. The responsible ministry should act, not just sing songs. We need to see work done on the ground.

  22. nsonga ciswe says:

    This is a hot issue, we wins do not bother and or cherish the stance of the elderly.we be had charities etc in the name of th elderly, when such are in place, what some of us hv witnessed is mostly blanket distribution a fifty or twenty kg maize or a village: kind of cook out,no long term planning. And we don’t s:ee-) we or hear 🙂 the outcome.

  23. mbunyariya says:

    Comment Bwana Lecturer Pangani Zotheka Uthenga Upite Pawailesi Ndinkhani Yabwino Kwambiri

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