Older people and the media in Uganda

Uganda’s Minister of State for the Elderly and Disabled Suleiman Madada has expressed concern over the fast growing population of older person

By Williams Moi

Uganda’s Minister of State for the Elderly and Disabled Suleiman Madada has expressed concern over the fast growing population of older persons, which he says will outnumber that of children by the year 2050 if nothing is done to avert it.

Speaking at a workshop regarding elderly people and the media run by Help Age International, the Minister said the number of older people is growing at such a rapid rate in the country it will outnumber that of children by 2050.

He added: “The worst is the current poverty level which has forced developing countries to borrowing foreign money for a living whereas the population grows faster without any control measures.”

The minister said the law about older persons should be strengthened and equal opportunity and affirmative action given to them in due course. He highlighted how a bill has been passed by Parliament that will enable a national council for older persons to be created although President Museveni is yet to consent to the bill.

In Kisi Kenya, older persons are beaten, which calls for social protection and security, Madada said. He further urged the government to bring in social protection measures to address the inequality between the rich and the poor, which leaves older people particularly vulnerable. In relation to this he cited how 83% of active older persons are engaged in crop farming, but without social security they are rendered vulnerable to societal needs.

Older people are often denied credit by financial institutions due to the misconception that they are risky borrowers because of old age. All in all he proposes that Savings and Credit Cooperative Organisations for older persons be formed. He also said there is a need to lobby for better financial services training on entrepreneurial skills and for participation in poverty eradication programmes.

Madada urged the media to speak and act for voiceless people such as the older persons and said he is thankful to Help Age International for starting an elderly and the media programme. He urged the media to help raise awareness about the social needs of older persons through advocacy and decried certain journalists who he said neglect rural stories and only deal in urban coverage and foreign sports new.

Herbert Baryamureba, director of social protection at the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development, decried discrimination against older persons and denial of services at hospitals and elsewhere.

“We need to plan for old age from 44 to 68-years-old, as we prepare to die,” he said amidst laughter.

Baryamureba added that the population of older persons is growing drastically worldwide but only a few have policies for them. He sights South Africa and Botswana as two examples.

He said last year the Ugandan government gave 125 million Ugandan shillings (Shs) for the older persons but this year it is budgeted at 50 million and will rise to 1.2bn next financial year, which shows growth. However, he said he felt scared that Uganda might lose donor aid due to alleged gross corruption in the country as 90% of money to support older persons in the country comes from donors.

Florence Amono, programme manager at Help Age International, appealed for continuous advocacy and debates for the older persons and information sharing.

Media representative Chris Higenyi described the workshop as “instrumental in shaping our understanding as the media for older person’s plight.” He urged Help Age International to continue with training and advocacy “for long as we grow old as equal as our elders.”

Help Age started in Uganda 3-years-ago with affiliates working in 90 countries the world over, he added. It works for the rights and entitlement of the older person and helps support policy design, action plans and small scale projects.