Malawi needs an urgent social pension for elderly people

My attention has been drawn to the continued suffering of elderly people in the country.

Reports indicate that most of our senior citizens, especially in rural areas, are living in abject and absolute poverty.

They sleep in shacks that leaks, often on empty stomach while covering their hard, cracked and dirty bodies in rags.

To survive, most turn to begging and, of course, complete reliance on handouts from strangers.

Their painful situation is exacerbated by the fact that existing traditional systems of care nd support for the elderly in Malawi are increasingly breaking down.

They are on their own, rejected, abandoned, accused of witchcraft—and if they are not killed, they die like stray dogs, wrapped in mats and buried in unmarked graves.

Is this the kind of treatment we should continue to accord our senior citizens? I am saying no.

President Lazarus Chakwera won on a ticket of ensuring that we create a Malawian that benefits all, ‘Malawi wokomera tonse’. We are certain that even the elderly are part of this Malawi. However, the situation on the ground is troubling for our elderly.

That is why I support submissions by Malawi Network for the Elderly People (Manepo) who propose urgent need for Chakwera government to implement a universal pension for all elderly people in Malawi.

A universal pension is just an example of social protection schemes aimed at protecting the most vulnerable in our society.

In Malawi, the very of the poorest have been beneficiaries of social protection schemes such as social cash transfers and Farm Input Subsidy Programme (FISP).

However, such schemes are generic, as such, little trickles to the elderly. In fact, a 2016 government study showed that three-quarters of the elderly do not benefit from these schemes.

That is why a special scheme, entirely targeting the elderly is a matter of urgency if, as a nation, we care to protect our senior citizen to live their life in dignity.

You see, there are only about 1 million old people in Malawi. However, only 5 percent are on pension and studies show that they live a better life. To mean, if government can implement a universal, non-contributory pension scheme, the lives of our senior citizens will begin to take the shape.

The good thing is that government has already done studies on this and the conclusion has been social pensions represent an important component of an institutional foundation for old-age social protection. Tonse government just needs to take it up from there.

There is a good reason not just for the elderly but for the entire society as regards to why we should have a universal pension scheme for the elderly.

A universal pension would also create multipliers within the households and the wider community. There is empirical evidence of how pensions can reduce child poverty and rates of child labour, and boost school enrolment.

The extra cash being pumped into rural communities would also catalyse efforts towards agricultural development.

Further, a scheme of this nature would provide a long-term tool to systematically share the proceeds of growth amongst society as a whole, and thus contain levels of inequality.

This is why I feel time has come for Chakwera to live to his ideal of an inclusive government, one that takes care of all—including to elderly.

Malawi needs a universal pension scheme for our senior citizens