Cameroon: Give the elderly a new lease on life! 0

There is no challenge greater than living as a desperate old person in any part of the world. This is all the more true in Cameroon where there are no social safety nets for the elderly and the country’s government is not in any haste to change things for the elderly, most of whom live in poverty from the cradle to the grave.

This unfortunate situation can be reversed through government policy which makes the elderly a key component of our society and a population segment which can be given a new lease on life.

Many elderly people in Cameroon have never earned an income. Most have either been farmers in their villages or the hustling poor in the country’s burgeoning slums.

Working on your own farm may be a guarantee of food for personal consumption while the energy levels are still good, but when nature’s rules kick in as time continues its onward march, these farmers and the hustlers start losing their energy and this makes it hard for them to continue producing food for personal consumption or for sale just to earn extra income which can help them address some of their multiple financial needs.

But when they start running out of energy, things usually take a turn for the worse. Things only become more desperate if their own children do not secure jobs which can enable them to reach out to their own parents.

The elderly constitute a key segment in our African societies. They are considered as human libraries whose role is to help transmit knowledge and our rich cultures to the young. However, how can they conveniently play their roles on an empty stomach or when they are sick and cannot access the care they need?

There is no gainsaying that age comes with a slew of  health issues. Diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiovascular diseases and even kidney-related problems are some of the diseases which bring fear and uncertainty into the lives of the elderly, especially when they are cash-strapped.

However, their condition is not fatalism. It can be reverse where there is a political will. The government of Cameroon can help alleviate the apprehensions of our elderly by ensuring that the medication they need is available and highly subsidized.

Diabetics need a lot of money and discipline for them to live long. Those who are hypertensive need much support either through sensitization or financial support for them to be hopeful in the future.

Elderly victims of kidney problems, especially those who are on dialysis need more than family moral support to stay strong and hopeful! They need to be reassured that they can have their dialysis sessions on time and that they can eat properly in order to avoid creating new health issues for themselves.

While family support might be necessary, it might not go a long way in instilling confidence in the elderly who are being assailed by multiple ailments which require lots of financial support and much medical attention.

The government can put these elderly on a monthly allowance for them to face the future with confidence. CFAF 40,000 a month will inspire hope in many of these desperate Cameroonians. This financial support will be a breath of fresh air for our elderly who, for want of proper financial support, are always willing to die in order not to bleed their already impoverished families dry.

The problem in Cameroon cannot be that of a resource paucity. Cameroon’s problem is lack of planning and a political will which can transform the lives of the country’s citizens, especially those living in our forgotten rural areas.

There is money in Cameroon but it is in the hands of a select and corrupt few. Early this week, the salary of Adolphe Moudiki, the Managing Director of SNH, a state-owned corporation, was published online and this created a scandal.

The SNH boss is earning well over CFAF 50 million every month in a country wherein the average salary is CFAF 100,000 and the most disheartening thing is that there are SNH staff who earn less than CFAF 100,000 a month.

This type of salary disparity only points to the fact that the government prefers a system wherein a few call the shorts while the majority languishes in the slums, with the elderly left to their own devices.

A little largesse towards the elderly can go a long way in granting these people who are suffering from all types of ailments a new lease on life.

To ensure that such a safety net is functional, there should be a clear definition of the word Elderly. This could be someone who is 65 years old and more, and those who are receiving a pension should not qualify for this social support.

The modalities for the earning of such money can be defined by experts and all measures should be in place to ensure that there is no abuse.

By Dr. Joachim Arrey