Our partner project in western Uganda strives to support the elderly and equip them so that they can be self-sufficient.
With the support of Viatores Christi (VC), Bishop Magambo Counsellor Training Institute (BMCTI) runs a project that provides psycho-social support to the elderly in Fort Portal Municipality, Kabarole District in Western Uganda. The project runs a day centre where older people are offered health check-ups, provided with breakfast and lunch, and take part in gatherings with other people of a similar age, do craft work and get sensitised about their rights.
“Prior to our intervention the elderly were visibly lonely and isolated. The monthly social gatherings, home visits, and the training of the caregivers resulted into improved emotional wellbeing” of the elderly in the area.
“Kisembo Paul a resident of Kanyamakerre in East Division. Performing one of the activities in the outreach program. Paul lives alone in the house and his step child takes care of him. Paul sells his finished mats to neighbours”.
Globally, less than 20% of older persons of retirement age receive a pension. This is a specific challenge to older persons that BMCTI has made a huge achievement in combatting. Through their advocacy campaigns, as of 18th June 2020, the Social Assistance Grant to the Elderly (SAGE) in Uganda has been extended to cover Kabarole district. They report over 100 older persons in their area who are now benefiting from the programme.
Age discrimination is an issue that many older people face in decisions on medical care and treatments. According to the UN up to half of older persons living in developing countries don’t have access to medical services. With Covid-19 increasing the risks to the lives of older people, access to health services is an increasingly pressing issue. Through advocacy and outreach measures with local health centers, BMCTI “ensures that the elderly are receiving medical care whenever they visit these health centres”. In Kataraka health centre the elderly are given priority when they line up. Through the support of VC, BMCTI employed a nurse and procured essential equipment such as a blood pressure machine in 2020. The nurse provides basic healthcare check-ups during home visits and at the day centres. These check-ups also give the nurse the opportunity to give the elderly advice and counsel on their general health and nutrition.
Adapting to Covid-19
The project was quick to adapt the additional challenges that Covid-19 brought. A Covid-19 contingency plan was quickly put into place. With the support of VC, BMCTI purchased food supplements, Vitamin C, which helped to boost the immune system of the elderly especially during the Covid-19 outbreak and Food donation from the local government during the lock down.
Through a radio campaign BMCTI strive to increase social awareness. Their weekly radio talk shows cover aging related topics like aging gracefully, quality care of the elderly, effective communication skills with the elderly, the rights of the elderly, nutrition among others. These shows have generated debates and highlighted the needs of the elderly in the area. Our partner reports that “This was particularly clear during the political campaigns where more than before the elderly were often talked about as important citizens”
Above all, the project empowers people. One project participant, from Kanyamakerre said, “The day centres empowered me so much; it’s from the gatherings that I understood my rights as a woman and I can now stand in public, fight for and defend my rights and freedom”.
They enjoy the trip and always refer to it as “their day out” they are transported to and from their respective homes.