Empowering older Burundian refugees with health information
Burakamphite Veronica, 84, is a Burundian refugee living in Mtendeli refugee camp, Tanzania. In 2016 she suffered a sustained spinal cord injury that left her unable to walk, take care of herself or participate in food aid collection and social gatherings. In 2017 we stepped in to support her with hospital referrals, rehabilitation services and practical items including a wheelchair and commode chair so that she no longer had to crawl on the ground to move around.
When COVID-19 struck, a project to support people in Tanzania with specific needs was funded through the generosity of the Evan Cornish Foundation.
Burakamphite Veronica was identified as someone who would benefit from additional support following one of her support visits. A Project Community Rehabilitation Officer carried out a detailed assessment on Burakamphite’s situation and how her needs could be met. She was visited by our team to inform her on the risks of coronavirus and how she could help protect herself from contracting the virus. Burakamphite also received a hygiene kit which included a water container, soap and face masks to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 infection.
We want to ensure older people feel supported, listened to and heard during our work. As a part of this we asked Burakamphite her opinions on the COVID-19 services provided to her and if they helped. Burakamphite said:
“... older and disabled people like me have always experienced limited exposure to health information including on the recent COVID-19. Initially we experienced a high level of anxiety because we didn’t know the details including how to protect ourselves from the disease. We just left it to GOD to decide!
“The visit to me and my colleagues by the team was like an eye opener. We started regaining hopes that we can still serve our lives despite our frailty. However, most of us were still not able to buy the sanitary Items after the awareness because of our poverty - until you brought some. I feel very much honored. Imagine if all this didn’t happen, I was going to be the first to be infected and die because I have all the underlying risk factors which I was told by the team when they visited me!”
Our support work to help older people living in refugee camps and host communities is essential. Older people and those who are vulnerable are at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19 due to underlying health conditions, physical stress, and reduced immune systems.
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Older people in the poorest parts of the world affected by conflict or living in refugee camps need help urgently to survive the silent threat of COVID-19.