Ahead of the 32nd African Union Summit of the Heads of Government and State, HelpAge International and its network in Africa have called upon Africa’s leaders and humanitarian actors to uphold the rights of older people in migration.
Older people in migration, including refugees, returnees and older internally displaced persons, are particularly vulnerable to violence, abuse and neglect.
According to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (2017), on any given day, at least 15,000 people get displaced inside African countries. A joint report by the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) of the UK and HelpAge International last year attributes the rise of migration to a number of reasons which include the lure of better economic prospects for the youthful populations, continuous multilayered conflicts and repeated natural disasters which are slowly eroding social cohesion and making traditional roles of older people redundant.
“Governments have within their jurisdictions the power to uphold human rights for older people in migration and dismantle any specific barriers that older people face to access protection and access services within humanitarian response,” said Ms Roseline Kihumba, HelpAge International’s Africa Regional Policies Coordinator.
Additionally, older people in migration, lack information about their rights and legal services, and are not enabled to take part in humanitarian response or claim their rights in these circumstances.
On the positive note however, African Member States continue to advance in adopting and implementing international, regional and national frameworks related to refugees, returnees and displaced people. So far, forty-five African Member States have signed and ratified the OAU Convention on Specific Problems Relating to Refuges in Africa and 27 Member States have ratified the African Union Convention for the Protection and Assistance of Internally Displaced Persons in Africa (Kampala Convention).
However, there have been significant delays to the implementation of these frameworks at national level.
“A major setback has been the slow progress made in signing and ratification of the AU Protocol on the Rights of Older Persons. Only Republic of Lesotho has so far signed and ratified the Protocol while only 10 Member States had signed it by end of 2018, four years since the African leaders adopted it in January 2016,” said Ms Kihumba. The Protocol will be in force when at least 15 countries ratify the Protocol.
HelpAge International is the secretariat to HelpAge Global Network, which brings together a wide range of organisations and individuals working to promote the rights and meet the needs of older women and men, nationally and/or internationally. The organization has an Observer Status at the AU.