On this year’s World Refugee Day, Emily Kemigisha, Country Representative for HelpAge International in Uganda, has called on the government, “To specially reach out to older women and men in the refugee camps as the group with the highest primary needs in this crisis.”
Uganda has received accolades for its progressive open-door border policies that have seen the influx of millions of refugees from neighboring countries.
Emily Kemigisha has highlighted longstanding issues with older people being excluded in the humanitarian response. COVID-19 presents specific risks for older people. This is more so for older refugees living in camps where health care and equipment, including PPE and referral services, may not be optimal.
“If the government is to meet the humanitarian needs of older refugees and save lives, this has to change with the COVID-19 response. Older refugee ought to be included in leadership structures to participate in decision making processes” said Frederick Bwire, CEO Uganda Reach the Aged Association.
“On this World Refugee Day, it must dawn on all that everyone counts in the fight against COVID-19. The UN has called for us to work together to ensure that every human being is protected and included in the response to this crisis. Everyone, regardless of their social or economic status, deserves to be treated with dignity and respect. Everyone must have access to basic human rights. Everyone has a role to play in society,” Bwire added.
Ninety five percent of those who have died from COVID-19 in Europe were over 60, and more than half of those were over 80.
Initial research in China based on over 44,000 cases of Covid-19, showed a mortality rate of
2.3% for the general population, rising to 8% in those aged 70-79 and nearly 15% in those 80 and over.
HelpAge and other age-care institutions that advocate for the rights of older people urged the UN OCHA to recognise older people explicitly alongside other population groups considered “most-affected and at risk” and respond to older people’s needs in COVID-19.
In Uganda, HelpAge international has been implementing an EU-funded multi country Project through its network member the Uganda Reach the Aged Association in Adjumani that targeted Older South Sudanese migrants.