August 17, 2011

SAUDI ARABIA: Homes for the elderly in derelict state in Makkah

JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia / The Saudi Gazette / Nation / August 17, 2011

By Ibrahim Khudair

Okaz/Saudi Gazette

MAKKAH – Complaints of the residents of homes for elderly are endless and deeply disturbing. Their grief illustrates the deteriorating condition of these homes and their lack of facilities. Homes for the elderly, also known as ‘Ribat’, provide shelter to disadvantaged people suffering from difficult times, such as the poor and needy, female divorcees and widows.

However, Makkah homes for elderly have been neglected for so long that they are now in a derelict state, claim residents of these homes. They don’t even provide basic necessities and are neither clean nor safe for living, they claim. The poor and elderly residents of these homes are completely isolated from the outside world. They live and die all alone.

And if you think that these distressed residents, deprived of basic facilities, live free of cost, you are mistaken.

“I pay SR150 every month to the superintendent. If I don’t pay, I won’t get water and electricity services and I’ll end up living on the street,” said Umm Abdul Aziz, a 50-year-old woman, inhabitant of one of the homes. Most people living here are old, poor and sick. They can’t afford to pay this amount and they don’t have anyone to support them financially. They don’t have a choice and end up living in a dilapidated apartment that doesn’t have water and electricity services, she said.

Umm Abdul Aziz said that she came to live here because her daughter-in-law did not want her to live with her in the same house.

“I have diabetes and hypertension and there is no provision of health services here. I’m old and I can’t even clean the two small rooms and tiny bathroom of my apartment,” she said. She added that she felt isolated from the outside world. “Charitable organizations don’t help us and the female officials of Ministry of Social Affairs don’t visit us. It’s very difficult to live in this derelict home with its narrow corridors,” she said.

Umm Saleh, a female divorcee who has been living in a home for elderly, for five years complained about the lack of aid from government officials. “Many women who live here can’t afford to pay electricity, sanitary drainage and cleaning services’ fees. Neither governmental officials nor owners of these homes care about us. Nobody is helping us financially,” she said.

Okaz/Saudi Gazette visited another home for elderly in Makkah and its condition was as poor as the previous one.

Umm Abdullah, a widow, said: “This home has become derelict. The uncovered electric wiring and the poor condition of the staircase are both very dangerous for residents.” She has been living in this home for three years with her family and even though she visited charity organizations several times, she didn’t receive any financial help from them.

Abu Talal, who is 75 years old, said: “I can’t afford the high costs of medical care and electricity bills. We’re a family of seven people and live in a small apartment.”

Munirah, who also lives in a home for elderly, said, “I moved to this place when my husband passed away. I lived on my husband’s pension, which is SR2,000, but it is not sufficient because we’re a big family.” She added that she has no source of income.

However, Shefa Charitable Organization, which is a body that supervises Makkah homes for elderly people, defended itself. A social specialist of the society said, “The organization continuously sends nurses and social specialists to these homes to provide medical treatment and all necessary medical and food supplies.”

The Saudi
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