December 2, 2009

KENYA: State rolls out pay package for the old

. NAIROBi, Kenya / The Standard / December 2, 2009 By Ally Jamah The sunset years for thousands of poor senior citizens could soon be sweeter following plans by the Government to start payments to those above 65 years. The plan will ensure they get dignified old age. By the middle of this month, the Government will start paying Sh1,500 a month to about 33,000 of poor Kenyans above 65 years. The number will be increased gradually to reach 1.6 million senior citizens, most of whom live in abject poverty. Senior citizens perform a play depicting the plight of Kenya’s old people during the launch of a Kenya National Commission of Human Rights report at a Nairobi hotel, yesterday. The report shows Kenya is becoming unfriendly to old people. Photo: Mbugua Kibera/Standard We want to ensure that growing old in Kenya is not a path towards impoverishment and doom but rather, one towards celebration of a long fulfilled life," said Righa Mwakio, the Commissioner of Gender in the Ministry of Gender and Children Affairs. Pilot project Mr Mwakio said Sh540 million was allocated for the programme in this year’s budget after a successful pilot project that involved 300 senior citizens in three districts. "It has taken us several months to determine which people deserve the money most and now we are ready to roll out the programme this month to help the old lead decent lives," he said. The Gender Commissioner was speaking while launching a new report prepared by the Kenya National Commission of Human Rights (KNCHR), which examines the plight of old people. "We invite donors to partner with us to help us cover more people left of the safety net. We hope eventually, we will cover all the old people," he said. The report Growing Old in Kenya: Making it a Positive Experience, reveals Kenya is becoming unfriendly to its senior citizens, who are now battling negative perception and hostile treatment in their vulnerable years. "These days, being old is seen as a bad thing and old people are increasingly seen as burdensome and incapable of contributing to the society," said Wambui Kimathi, a KNCHR Commissioner, who compiled the report. Ms Kimathi expressed dismay many old people have been abandoned in the rural areas by their children living in urban centres, with some shouldering the burden of raising orphans, who lost their parents to HIV and Aids. The report urged the youth to prepare for retirement early to avoid living their senior years in squalor. The CEO of HealthAge Kenya Gerald Mwangi dismissed the frequent calls to replace old people in senior leadership with youths. "Even old people are capable of making valuable contributions to this country because they have mature wisdom and deep insights," he said. Mwangi urged Kenyans to honour and respect senior citizens. [rc] ©2009 The Standard Group