India has the second-largest population in the world with more than 1.34 billion people, making it difficult to control the transmission of Covid-19. The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare of India has taken various awareness initiatives to sensitize the population about the Do’s and Don’ts and the precautions that need to be taken against Coronavirus. The structures of community interaction define the spread of Covid-19 and in the absence of vaccine and cure; the only way to avoid the spread is to encourage social distancing.
The pandemic has an unprecedented effect on the lives of people, regardless of their demographic profile. The elders are at a higher risk of getting infected. It is therefore advised, to maintain social distance and follow the necessary guidelines to keep yourself and your loved one’s safe. The fatality rate for older people is higher than compared to other age groups. The pandemic is putting elders at a higher risk of discrimination, loneliness, and poverty besides the threat to life.
Covid-19 has disrupted the lives and livelihood of people, especially in rural India. The lockdown has reduced income and threatens the food security of the rural population. One-quarter of India’s population is below the poverty line and approximately half a billion people are working in the informal sector, living on daily wages. The lockdown has affected millions of lives, leaving them hungry and penniless, and with no money and means to earn, these people depend on others for food and help, while there are many more who are simply starving.
HelpAge India released a report “The Elder Story: Ground Reality during Covid-19”, surveying 5,099 elders across 17 states and four Union Territories stating that 65 percent elders whose incomes had been affected, 67 percent were in the age group of 60-69 years, a glaring 28 percent in the ‘old-old’ category (70-79 years) and five percent in the ‘oldest-old’ age group (80 plus). About 71 percent of elder respondents stated that the income of the breadwinner of their family was affected by the lockdown.
The elderly not only feared for their lives but also the stigma attached to the infection. The lockdown fanned their fears further, as they faced isolation, uncertainty, and income loss. The biggest challenge for the elders during the pandemic has been accessing healthcare, buying medicines, groceries, and banking.
The report also showed that 62 percent of the elderly respondents were found suffering from chronic diseases such as asthma, cancer, hypertension; diabetes, etc. 53 percent were rural elders and 47 percent were urban elders. The Lockdown has greatly affected the livelihood and income of the rural population, especially the elders who have no savings and no one to take care of them.
HelpAge India’s Mobile Healthcare Unit teams are reaching out to elder beneficiaries suffering from chronic illness and delivering medicines through home visits and within their community. In some areas, our MHU’s is operating as an ambulance as per the request of district officers and authorities and using patients to transport to hospitals for their treatments and check-ups.
64 years, Rukhmini Govind Waghmare lives in Wavandhal Anantwadi, Tal, Khalapur, Raigad District, Maharashtra. She suffered from joint pains and had trouble walking. She lives with her son who is a daily wage labourer and the only bread earner of the family. Due to the lockdown, he was out of work and didn’t have an income to support his family nor buy medicines for Rukhmini. HelpAge India’s Mobile Healthcare Unit visited her and provided her with free medicines and Family Survival Kit which helped her and her family a lot.
70 year old, Avula Swamy is a beneficiary of Mobile Healthcare Unit Shamshabad, a native of Gollapally Village, Andhara Pradesh, and is suffering from hypertension for the past 14 years. His wife Avula Narsamma suffered from osteoarthritis and hypertension and is unable to walk. Swamy is the sole caregiver and does everything from cleaning and cooking to helping his wife. HelpAge India is helping the elderly couple by providing free healthcare and medicines every week. HelpAge has also provided the couple with Family Survival Kit during the pandemic.
HelpAge India has a 160 plus strong Mobile Healthcare Unit (MHU) network and our health teams have reached out to needy elders in rural India, driven deep into the interiors to make elders & their communities aware of Covid-19.
“We need a surge in global and national solidarity and the contributions of all members of society, including older people”. — AntónioGuterres