Elderly turn to protection orders
United Nations independent expert on the enjoyment of all human rights by older persons, Rosa Kornfeld-Matte, has revealed that one out of every ten people applying for protection orders in Namibia, are 50 years or older.
Kornfeld-Matte was speaking this week during a media conference in Windhoek, where she presented the preliminary findings of a report on the human rights of older persons in Namibia, which will be released in September.
During her ten-day visit to Namibia, which ended this week, Kornfeld-Matte travelled to several cities and towns including Windhoek, Katutura, Okahandja, Rundu, as well as Silikunga, and Mpungu, in the Kavango regions.
She met with various Government officials, non-governmental organisations, academia and others working on the rights of older persons, as well as the elderly themselves, and their representative organisations.
“There are serious concerns about violence against, abuse and maltreatment of older persons and in particular older women in Namibia, and there is too little discussion about it,” Kornfeld-Matte, who is a Chilean by birth, said on Monday.
“It is estimated that around 4 to 6 percent of older persons have experienced some form of maltreatment at home. Poverty, inequality, substance abuse are contributing factors, but also entrenched attitudes, including about corporal punishment.
“The Government has an obligation to tackle this as a matter of priority.”
According to the most recent statistics, released by the Namibian police, a shocking 2,151 cases of gender-based violence were reported from January 2015 to November last year, which included 1,038 rapes.
A total of 210 cases of attempted rape were reported during this period, while there were 58 murder cases and 58 cases of attempted murder recorded. Kornfeld-Matte commended Government for “its political determination and vision on how to improve the lives of all Namibians by 2030 and to protect their human rights”.
She, however, urged the State “to deliver on its promises”.
“I call on the Government to deploy every effort possible to finalise and put into motion the comprehensive national policy on the rights, care and protection of older people,” Kornfeld-Matte said.
“A dedicated policy on older persons is key to ensuring improved protection of their rights.”
She emphasised that, “any policy on older persons has to adopt a human rights-based approach”, adding that “the United Nations principles on older persons, alongside the core human rights instruments, should guide the Government’s efforts in this regard”.
“While the proportion of older persons has remained somehow constant, at around 7 percent of the total population since independence, the projected growth rate of the older population in sub-Saharan Africa is expected to be faster than that experienced by any other region, since 1950.
“The challenges associated with an ageing society are not a distant phenomenon,” the UN expert emphasised.
“It will result in immense pressure on the care system, as a growing number of older persons will be living with chronic diseases and disability.
“Low population density and accelerated levels of urbanisation have the potential to erode the traditional family care system. Further investment by the Government in health and care infrastructure is required to provide alternatives to the older persons in rural areas.
“Care can no longer be considered simply a family matter, and I call on the Government to step up its effort to revise the Aged Persons Act, in order to fully provide for the rights, protection, care and welfare of older people,” Kornfeld-Matte said.
She said Namibia has come a long way since it gained independence, only 27 years ago.
“It has since enjoyed political stability and steady economic growth and is ranked as an upper middle-income country.”
However, despite its efforts, Namibia remains among the most unequal countries in the world.
“While I acknowledge that poverty levels have been brought down significantly since independence, they remain high for certain parts of the population and certain regions of the country.
“I am also fully aware that some of the inequalities that persist are the legacy of colonial rule and that attitudes do not change overnight,” she added.
“This does not mean that the existing disparities in income and land distribution are acceptable, and I have to insist that more can and needs to be done to fight old age poverty.”
Kornfeld-Matte said the Harambee Prosperity Plan has great potential to further social protection for older persons, as it addresses key areas such as hunger, poverty, and housing.
“While the establishment and expansion of an extensive system of social grants is a significant achievement and example to follow, the universal non-contributory old-age grant in many households constitutes the only income, as a result of the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
“I acknowledge the huge positive impact of the old-age grant to reducing poverty levels, while it is important to ensure that earmarked assistance reaches its intended beneficiaries.
“I would like to assure you that I heard your call for technical cooperation and capacity building. The international community has indeed an important role to play in complementing and supporting your efforts to address the challenges of an ageing society, and in particular in the fight of old-age poverty.
“I will do my utmost to encourage the international community to continue its cooperation with Namibia, including through financial and specific technical support,” Kornfeld-Matte said.
Since independence, the country’s old-age grant has increased over time to N$600 per month, until it was raised substantially to N$1,000 per month in 2015, to N$1,100 last year, and to N$1,200 during last week’s national budget speech by Finance Minister, Calle Schlettwein.