The UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development sets out the well-known Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), global aims for the near future.
The document states that:
‘People who are vulnerable must be empowered. Those whose needs are reflected in the Agenda include all children, youth, persons with disabilities (of whom more than 80 per cent live in poverty), people living with HIV/AIDS, older persons, indigenous peoples, refugees and internally displaced persons and migrants.’
However, in reality, to what extent does the Agenda reflect the needs of the elderly? In the entire document, there are only three references to older people, compared to 23 references to young people and children. Furthermore, there is no UN organisation for the elderly, while UNICEF’s annual revenue amounts to approximately $5bn.
One of these three references is in the second SDG, which pledges to end all forms of malnutrition by 2030 – that is in twelve years’ time! These are bold ambitions and only achievable if the needs of the most vulnerable in society are prioritised.
Unfortunately, during conflict, the elderly and those with disabilities face heightened risk of abandonment and neglect. Development agencies and humanitarian aid workers are overwhelmed with competing priorities and it is difficult for these vulnerable people to access the support they need. However, the Trumpeter Community Health Project works hard to focus on elderly people and those living with disabilities, by reaching out to them with health education, emergency food supplies and frequent assessments. The sick are referred to nearby clinics and those suffering from malnutrition receive supplies.
Aseneta Alijio, 80 years old from Maridi County, lost all her children during the different wars and now lives alone: ‘I have nothing with me, no people to look after me, everything I had is all gone.’ During the 2016 conflict in Western Equatoria, she moved to Juba to escape the violence. The Trumpeter workers encountered her during door-to-door visits; now she receives regular food supplies and frequent health checks:
‘I have appreciated the help gotten from the young people at Trumpeter Community Health, they are now my family. They have taught me many things to improve my hygiene and given me food. Every visit they make in my small house is a blessing.
Anthony Ohure from Torit is 61 years old. He was injured during the war and found it difficult to find medical assistance. For this reason, he moved to Juba but because of the delay in reaching proper healthcare, his arm required amputation. The Trumpeters visit him regularly and encourage him, giving him food supplies and health education.
The Trumpeters have 150 people on their register who are elderly or living with disability with no care giver. For them, these members of the community are the priority.
‘Jesus said also to the man who had invited him, “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbours, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.’ – Luke 14:12-14