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Cameroon's Elderly Say They Feel Abandoned


FILE - A 70-year-old woman who fled violence in the northwestern division of Momo poses for a photograph near the house where she has taken refuge in Yaounde, Cameroon, Oct. 2, 2018.

In Cameroon, scores of seniors marked Friday's International Day of Older Persons by calling on authorities to do more to support the elderly in the country's conflict areas.

Many of those demonstrating in Yaounde fled from Boko Haram terrorism in the north or Cameroon's separatist conflict in the west. They say hundreds of seniors remaining in those regions have been left to fend for themselves.

Sixty-seven-year-old Veronica Ngum, an activist for the elderly in Cameroon, said a majority of protesting seniors are suffering.

She said they lack energy to work, are frail, and lack the financial means to buy healthy food or be treated in hospitals.

The Cameroon Association of Elderly Persons organized the 30-minute walk to raise awareness of what they said is the plight of older persons in the country. Similar protests took place Friday in the cities of Bafoussam and Douala.

The Timely Performance Care Center for disabled children and older persons helped organize the protest.

The manager of the Yaounde-based center, Betty Nancy Fonyuy, said older persons suffer neglect from their families and communities.

"Most of them that are here are the elderly that have been abandoned by their families," she said. "Some of them are already visually impaired. The center gives them ambulatory materials, medications and reading glasses, with food supplies, bathing supplies, and their basic needs."

Fonyuy said her center has received at least 120 older persons displaced from Cameroon's English-speaking regions since January. Some have no relatives in Yaounde. She said her center is finding it difficult to help all elderly in need, and pleaded with donors to help.

Pauline Irene Nguene, Cameroon's minister of social affairs, said Cameroon has a national solidarity plan that includes the treatment and resettling of people, especially vulnerable civilians like older persons affected by Boko Haram terrorism and separatist conflicts.

Nguene said the government is inviting older persons who have been displaced to report to social affairs offices of their choice for medical assistance.

The United Nations General Assembly instituted the International Day of Older Persons in 1990 to examine issues and challenges faced by the elderly. The day is marked every year on October 1.

A 2020 government report indicates there are about two million people older than 60 among Cameroon's 25 million population. The report says most of them are poor and need lodging, food and health care.

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