United Nations human rights expert Rosa Kornfield-Matte says Namibia can do more to ensure the full enjoyment of human rights by elderly people in the country.
Sharing her preliminary findings on the rights of elderly persons at a press conference in Windhoek on Monday, she said Namibian elders lack proper housing and have inadequate necessities such as food which would allow them to live and age with dignity. As part of her 10-day investigations, the expert visited communities in Windhoek, Okahandja, Rundu, Silikunga and Mpungu, both in the Kavango West region.Kornfield-Matte was appointed by the Human Rights Council as the first UN independent expert on the enjoyment of all human rights by older persons in May 2014.
She had served as the national director of the Chilean national service of ageing, where she designed and implemented the national policy of ageing. While she applauded the Namibian government's political determination and vision on how to improve the lives of all Namibians by 2030 and protecting human rights, she requested government to double its efforts, revise laws on the rights of elderly people, and to better guarantee the protection and well-being of older people.
“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. A dedicated policy on older persons is key to ensuring the improved protection of their rights,” she noted. Namibia is one of a few African states which give elders a monthly grant. The grants have been increased to N$1 200 in this financial year. The proportion of older persons in Namibia has remained constant at around 7% since independence,
Kornfield-Matte said, adding that the challenges that come with an ageing society is not a distant phenomenon as 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 older persons in rural areas,” she stated.
She also highlighted that Namibia is one of the countries which still has high rates of inequality, and that the Harambee Prosperity Plan allows for a great opportunity to address these inequality issues. In addition, the UN expert said the elderly fall victim to violence and ill-treatment. One out of 10 people applying for protection orders are people over the age of 50, and 4% to 6% of older persons have experienced some form of maltreatment at home. She will present a report on her findings and recommendations on her visit to the country to the UN Human Rights Council in September.