Sunday, October 17, 2021

Cameroonian elders say they feel abandoned

In Cameroon, senior citizens marked Friday’s International Day of Older Persons by calling on authorities to do more to support the elderly in the country’s conflict zones.

Many of those protesting in Yaounde fled from Boko Haram terrorism in the north or Cameroonian separatist conflict in the west. They say hundreds of seniors remaining in those areas have been left to fend for themselves.

Seventy-year-old Veronica Ngam, an activist for the elderly in Cameroon, said most of the seniors who protested are victims.

She said they lack the energy to work, are frail, and lack the financial means to buy healthy food or get treatment in hospitals.

The Cameroon Association of Elderly Persons organized a 30-minute walk to raise awareness of the plight of older persons in the country. Similar protests took place on Friday in the cities of Bafosam and Douala.

The Timely Demonstration Care Center for Disabled Children and Older Persons helped organize the protests.

Betty Nancy Fonew, manager of the Yaounde-based center, said older people are more likely to be neglected by their families and communities.

“Most of them who are here are elderly people who have been abandoned by their families,” she said. “Some of them are already visually impaired. The center gives them food supplies, bathing supplies and walking material, medicines and reading glasses along with their basic needs.”

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Fonuy said at least 120 older people at his center have been displaced from English-speaking areas of Cameroon since January. Some have no relatives in Yaounde. She said her center is finding it difficult to help all the elderly, and appealed to donors for help.

Cameroonian Minister of Social Affairs Pauline Irene Nguyen said Cameroon has a national solidarity plan that includes the treatment and rehabilitation of people affected by Boko Haram terrorism and separatist conflicts, especially vulnerable civilians such as older persons.

Nguen said the government is inviting displaced older persons to report to social affairs offices of their choice for medical assistance.

The United Nations General Assembly established International Day of Older Persons in 1990 to examine the issues and challenges facing the elderly. This day is celebrated every year on 1 October.

A 2020 government report suggests that of Cameroon’s 25 million population, there are about two million people over the age of 60. Most of them are poor and need shelter, food and health care, the report said.

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