My name is Paulette METANG Tchekotio, and I am an activist advocating for the rights of older people in Cameroon.
As a member of the HelpAge network, ACAMAGE is stressing the fact that older people have the right to health, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic. At the moment all we can do is create awareness of the virus and urge people to stay safe in their homes. At the same time, we continue to engage with the government informing them of the situation that older people are living during this pandemic. We are using and sharing important HelpAge documents on COVID-19 to sensitise the country, older people, civil society organisations, the Ministry of Social Affairs, the Ministry of External Relations, the Justice Department, and our national Human Rights Commission.
We are also working with the Ministry of Health (who's coordinating the COVID-19 response) and other partners to offer guidance and information to older people. We have developed and printed visual materials to share with partners at the national level.
We continue to use older people’s forums as well as media channels to give information on COVID-19.
Today I finished translating HelpAge's guide on COVID-19 advice and we are sharing it with support centres for older people. We have started sharing these materials with the Ministry of Social Affairs.
We are also going into villages to sensitise older people, of course ensuring the safety of older people as well as our volunteers. We are doing this by going to their homes, door to door. Where we can and with the support of the government, we are also distributing masks, hand sanitisers and soaps.
At the moment we are short of funds to carry out these activities. With tough measures in place, more and more older people are reporting that they are in need of food and medicines. We are in discussion with the World Health Organization and the World Food Programme to see if we could get support with these issues. We have asked for help to our government too.
We are also boosting intergenerational solidarity which is also an important tool for creating awareness of COVID-19. We have mobilised the youth and are sending messages on social media to raise awareness. We are also sending phone messages and encouraging word of mouth. Families and friends are encouraged to speak to their older relatives and ask them to stay as much as possible at home, avoid crowds and regularly wash their hands.
We are using local languages in rural areas and have asked our volunteers to ensure social distancing so as not to spread the virus.
The good news is that older people are still receiving their social pension. We are engaging with the government to develop innovative ways to continue to provide pension payments without compromising the health of older people as the situation becomes more acute.