Special report: Impact of Covid 19 on the aged

The Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty (LEAP) established to support extremely poor households has not benefited some aged persons who are best described as destitute, due to eligibility concerns.

On a visit to some suburbs of Pokuase, it was obvious that COVID-19 has further worsened their situation.

They have no source of livelihood, barely have a square meal a day, without access to free healthcare and live off the benevolence of donors. 

72-year-old Anthony Agunyo has been homeless for decades. He was born at Ayawaso which used to be a farming community.

He used to grow food crops such as cassava, corn, pepper, garden eggs and okra until their farm lands were taken away from them for urban development. He lost his source of livelihood since then.

He then relocated to Pokuase and ventured into menial jobs like a construction labourer where he suffered an accident and never recovered from it.

He lives in a kiosk donated to him by Tabitha Ghana, a non-profit advocacy organization for the aged.

It occupies this a space free of any charges until the landlord has need for it.

He cannot afford paying for electricity and so he only charges his phone at a neighbour’s house and for other electricity needs he improvises.

A box iron, torch light and radio, both of which require batteries. His co-tenants agreed that he neither pays for using the bathroom nor the toilet.

He says the metal springs in his bed makes it uncomfortable to lie on but he has no choice.

He is a bachelor with no child to support him and he mostly depends on the children of his neighbours to run errands for him and even that is based on their availability.

On a good day he is able to afford two meals a day and on some days he starves.

He usually cooks by himself but when he runs out of groceries, gari or “Lagos coffee” as he terms it become his solace.

The last time he got any support from the Assembly presumably from the Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty (LEAP) was in 2018.

In 2019 he received a mill from a group of philanthropists but has since not made any income from it.

Since 2020 till date when the country was hit by COVID-19, times have been tough.

Mr. Agunyoh has lived on the benevolence of church members and Tabitha Ghana, albeit, irregularly. He only has two reusable nose masks and tiny bottle of sanitizer.

From Pokuase, we stopped at Afiaman where we met three elderly persons who are related.

Sixty-year-old Samuel Tetteh and seventy-nine-year-old Samuel Adjei are long distance and local drivers respectively whose trips have been halted due to COVID-19.

However, Samuel Adjei was once a footballer at the Susubiribi football club at New Tafo and attributes his activeness to that. Vida Larbi is sixty-four-years-old, and for decades, retails pepper after she has been supplied wholesale.

Due to inflating prices, she rarely makes a turn over.

Besides she is hypertensive and doctors have cautioned her to tone down on the pressure exerted on herself.

Although they sometimes receive remittances from their children who are mainly artisans, they complain times are tough. 

Another energetic and elderly woman is Grace Korley. She is seventy-three years with three children although she lives alone in this container.

She is well aware of the COVID-19 protocols and adheres to them.

She was also hard hit by COVID-19 and says she has no source of livelihood but lives on the benevolence of others.

The situation was the same in many other households visited.

Meet eighty-three year Samuel Martekorley alias “Agya wele”.

His is a former staff of the defunct State Fishing Corporation and a seaman.

The father of one and a divorcee disclosed that his son has abandoned him because of disagreements.

Although he isn’t in the best of health, living with cataract, he manages well on his own. He does all his chores himself.

At the time of visit, he had prepared Kontomire stew prior to visiting his farm.

He tells us that a tract of his farmlands was taken from him for urban development without compensation.

He tills what is left of it as a means of exercising.

He takes solace in the companionship of his friend from the neighbourhood.

Seventy-eight-year-old Mr. Opare was a labourer at the defunct State Farms and when he retired he took to driving a taxi but is currently out of work. 

Tabitha Ghana is an agency for the aged. Its roles have been phenomenal in attending to the needs of the doddery and elderly members from the various communities especially at the peak of COVID-19.

However, in the last two years they have done much more.

The National Disaster Management Organization (NADMO) through the Municipal Assembly had distributed food stamps to the aged during the lockdown. Though the Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty (LEAP) exists these men and women in their golden years are yet to benefit.

These old men and women want the criteria for selection reviewed and a percentage of the LEAP funding allocated to them, since there seems not to be any government backed benefits for the elderly in the country. 

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