Today, the 1st of October, the world marks the 30th anniversary of the International Day of Older Persons. The disproportionate and severe impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has wrought on older people around the world has not only affected their health, but their rights and well-being.
“COVID-19 is not only a wake-up call, it is a dress rehearsal for the world of challenges to come… The pandemic has taught us that our choices matter. As we look to the future, let us make sure we choose wisely.” – Antonio Guterres, UN Secretary-General.
The COVID-19 pandemic is causing untold fear and suffering for older people across the world. The fatality rate for older people is higher overall, and for those over 80, it is five times the global average. According to the United Nations, beyond its immediate health impact, the pandemic is putting older people at greater risk of poverty, discrimination and isolation. It is likely to have a particularly devastating impact on older people in developing countries. Every person deserves access to quality, affordable healthcare services. Healthcare services in impoverished communities are generally considered to be poor and insufficient. Medical facilities struggle to deliver essential health services due to inadequate service providers and shortages of supplies.
Financial hardship prevents many from seeking healthcare services when they are most needed. The Chris Oyakhilome Foundation International (COFI) works to enhance the quality and availability of healthcare services in the communities that need it the most. COFI supports initiatives that break down the barriers to proper healthcare in order to ensure the delivery of adequate healthcare services, quality healthcare management and improved patient care to build strong, healthy communities.
In addition to providing relief aid and assistance, the Volunteer Medical Corps (VMC), under the auspices of COFI, has sponsored community health initiatives including voluntary blood drives, free eye screenings, ministered words of hope and faith to cancer patients, and provided medications and supplements to under-served communities. The Volunteer Medical Corps works to build strong, healthy communities and provides humanitarian assistances in the form of medical care, relief assistance and long-term healthcare networks to communities in need.
The organization partners with individuals and non-profits who share their goals of enhancing healthcare systems, health education and relief aid to displaced populations.
No person, young or old, is expendable. Older people have the same rights to life and health as everyone else. Difficult decisions around life-saving medical care must respect the human rights and dignity of all. While physical distancing is crucial, let’s not forget we are one community and we all belong to each other. We need improved social support and smarter efforts to reach older people through the support of the community. That is vital to older people who may face great suffering and isolation under lockdowns and other restrictions.
All social, economic and humanitarian responses must take the needs of older people fully into account, from universal health coverage to social protection, decent work and pensions. The majority of older people are women, who are more likely to enter this period of their lives in poverty and without access to healthcare. Policies must be targeted at meeting their needs. Let’s not treat older people as invisible or powerless.
Many older people depend on an income and are fully engaged in work, in family life, in teaching and learning, and in looking after others. Their voices and leadership count. To get through this pandemic together, we need a surge in global and national solidarity and the contributions of all members of society, including older people.