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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alukosyo
Guest

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

chilangwe
Guest

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 .

tomas didimo
Guest

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?

Sake Chilling
Guest

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”?

kangaroo
Guest

Comment Kodi maiko oyandikana ndi Ife amatani pa nkhani imeneyi ?

Arthur G.M. Mtambo
Guest

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

Mzimba Solola
Guest

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

Penyani
Guest

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.

Observer
Guest
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… Read more »
MBACHI
Guest

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.

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