Who cares about elderly people living in slums?
77.8pc suffer from health-related problems: Study
When their wearied bodies seek rest and healthcare, elderly people in the country’s urban slums are instead condemned to toil until their last days, if they are to eat.
While visiting several slums in Narayanganj, a port town near capital Dhaka, the UNB correspondent found that the elderly people are living a miserable life in shanties without healthcare and necessary support.
Jabeda Khatun, in her early 70s, lives alone in Khyshipara Slum in an inhuman condition though once she had a happy family at Bikrampur in Dhaka district.
It was the erosion by the mighty Padma River that devastated her family 30 years ago, devouring their homestead and all the belongings they had. Then Jabeda along with her there-member family was compelled to take shelter in the slum.
Meanwhile, her husband died — 20 years ago — and her only son was killed in a road accident three years back. Jabeda has a sister-in-law, but she is struggling to survive with her four children. So, there is no one to take care of Jabeda.
Jabeda said she has long been suffering from eyesight problems, but she cannot afford to consult doctors. “I have poor eyesight. I cannot see anything clearly…. how will I live?” she questioned.
As Jabeda has no one to take care of her, she earns her livelihood by begging.
Noorjahan, another elderly woman, was lying on a mat in a shanty of the slum in an unhygienic condition. “I’ve nowhere to go, no one to look after me. My only daughter got married three years back and went to Dhaka along with her husband,” she said.
Noorjahan, in early 60s, says people are not willing to give her work as she has got old and is losing working ability day by day.
The miseries of elderly people in urban slums are too common in Bangladesh. Although about 33 percent of urban people live in slums, they have limited basic facilities to lead their lives. About 50 percent of the country’s population will live in urban areas by 2050, according to available information.
According to a recent study conducted by Population Research and Development Associates (PRDA), the overwhelming majority (77.8 percent) of the elderly people suffer from health-related problems in city slums.
The study says the incidence of illness was higher (80.7 percent) among elderly women compared men (75.2 percent). The major health related problems of the older persons were fever (49.7 percent), pain (36.3 percent), weakness (21.2 percent), asthma or breathing problem (14.5 percent), gastritis or ulcer (13.5 percent) and other problems including rheumatism and eye diseases.
The PRDA with financial support from HelpAge International conducted the study titled “Older People in Dhaka Slums: A Socio-Economic Assessment” on 10 slums of Dhaka City from October 2010 to January 2011.
About 59.2 percent elderly people got treatment in a pharmacy or dispensary. Around 17.4 percent sought treatment from public healthcare facilities, 14.7 percent from private doctors and 7.1 percent from NGO facilities, said the study.
Consultant of the Population Research and Development Associates (PRDA) Naushad Faiz said the poor elderly people in city slums face various challenges in getting healthcare, financial support, work opportunity, improved environment and infrastructure development.
He said about two-thirds of the elderly people in slums are engaged in household works with the percentage of women higher than men. About 6.5 million people in the country are visually impaired. Of them, 40 percent are elderly while most elderly slum dwellers are visually challenged.
Naushad Faiz, also a researcher, said the elderly slum dwellers will face more serious health hazards in about 8-10 years for lack of civic amenities.
Shashwatee Biplob, Social Protection and Policy Manager of the HelpAge International, told UNB that Bangladesh is in a phase of rapid demographic transition. The life expectancy is increasing while birth rate is on the decline.
“The share of population above the age of 60 is growing at a rapid rate from 1.9 million (4.4 percent) in 1951 to 9.4 million (6.6 percent) in 2007. This number is expected to increase to 14.6 million (about 9 percent) by 2025,” she said.
Shashwatee said the demographic forces, such as the rapid urbanisation and temporary migration are creating new social protection challenge for the country.
Meanwhile, the Urban Partnerships for Poverty Reduction (UPPR) of UNDP is currently working in 23 towns of the country to help the urban poor to lead their livelihood. The project is providing block-grants among the elderly people.
Reported by: Rafiqul Islam,UNB Staff Writer