WEAAD 2020: Nigerian elders deserve attention

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By Ibraheem Abdullateef

Unlike other anniversaries in Nigeria, today would pass largely uneventfully despite being the World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. Since 2006, the International Network for Prevention of Elder Abuse (INPEA) designated June 15 as a special day for advocacy for the welfare of the elders across the globe, raise awareness of elder abuse and highlight ways to challenge such abuse.

The United Nations declared and recognised WEAAD as a global issue in 2011. According to the World Health Organization, around 1 in 6 people 60 years and older experienced some form of abuse in community settings during the past year. Although Nigeria has a youthful population, there is a pocket of cases of abuse most in the South-East against the elders, which are underreported or even unknown by the victims, due to lack of adequate knowledge.

Put simply, all forms of abuse against the old people are called the Elder abuse. This abuse comes in various ways but can be broadly categorised into physical, psychological or emotional, neglect and abandonment, financial, societal/cultural, and institutional abuse. Apart from the sexual and physical forms, which are less pronounced, old people in Nigeria suffer financial, societal, and institutional forms of abuse at one point or the other every other day. Neglect by caregivers and the lackadaisical attitude of health workers are chiefly. On the one side, labelling of single women in the village as witches poses is both a cultural and psychological phenomenon to be reckoned with.

Like rape, the consequences of abuse on elders can be huge on victims. It includes physical injuries and extreme mental and psychological consequences, abuse of rights, and loss of dignity. These are factors that could reduce a nation’s life expectancy.

Aside from the devastating health effect Coronavirus pandemic presently poses to the older people, some other indices which could lead to an increase in cases include poverty, inadequate media reportage, default pension system, low level of awareness, and weak policies. One or combination of these proves a stumbling block for Elder abuse advocacy to pick a life of its own in Nigeria like in the developed countries.

To stem the challenges and make the nation safer and life better for old people, everyone must be on board. The government should put in place a national policy on the welfare of old people suiting the nation’s peculiarities. Also, the country pension system should be more efficient at paying regular pensions. And for those not in the scheme, a relief programme should be drafted to cater to their needs monthly.

There is a further need for public and private awareness. Many victims of abuse deny happenings, and some are not even well educated about it. The media and civic groups can do better with advocacy. This needs to be taken to secondary schools and higher institutions. Alongside that, they can also help with caregiving intervention to offer support to the victims. Corporate and private companies may also include care for the old people in their social responsibility projects. Religious and traditional leaders shouldn’t be left behind. They should be a partner in policy implementation and grassroots advocacy for the prevention of elder abuse in Nigeria.

Ibraheem Abdullateef writes from Kwara State; he is the founder of Torchbearers Impact Network. Shoot him mails at [email protected]

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