Stipends for senior citizens finally resumed last week after a six-month hiatus to the relief of the older people, most of whom solely survive on the Sh2,000 monthly payout.
Labour and Social Protection Cabinet Secretary Ukur Yatani announced the disbursement of Sh12 billion earlier this month.
When President Kenyatta launched the Inua Jamii 70 Years and Above Cash Transfer Programme prior to the 2017 General Election, the initiative was applauded and criticised in equal measure.
Some felt that it was a political tool, while others doubted its impact. However, the optimistic ones felt it was long overdue.
An enhancement of the previous project initiated in 2012 targeting Kenyans aged 65 and above living in extreme poverty, Inua Jamii targets the vulnerable groups. It incorporates the Older Persons Cash Transfer (OPCT), Persons with Severe Disability Cash Transfer (PWSD) and Orphans and Vulnerable Children Cash Transfer (OVCT).
The 2009 census projected the 2017 population of Kenyans aged 70 and above at 973,000 with the World Health Organization (WHO) putting life expectancy in Kenya at 63 years in 2015.
OPCTP assists the older citizens in harsh economic times by enhancing their purchasing power. The old people are likely to experience more hospitalisation, change in food consumption, emotional distress and dwindling of life standards, hence putting them among the vulnerable members of society.
The tradition of taking care of older members of the family is slowly fading away in today’s busy society. This leads to isolation, loneliness, ill health and poor nutrition. The stipend, therefore, helps the ageing to afford a more decent lifestyle.
Besides, in line with the free universal health coverage pillar of the ‘Big Four Agenda’, the National Hospital Insurance Fund is to provide free medical cover to Inua Jamii beneficiaries.
It is everyone’s dream to age gracefully, in dignity, and spend their sunset years happy, safe and healthy. The elderly have worked all their lives to give their offspring, and the nation, the best. They have toiled — paying taxes, participating in development, leading the nation and educating the brains of this country. Yet others fought in the brutal war of Independence.
Chipping in to cater for their basic and health needs is not a favour. It’s payback time!
The programme’s success has caught the eye of several countries, including outside Africa, with some visiting Kenya for benchmarking. It is now a case study in eight countries.
The programme has, however, faced myriad challenges. Swindling or misuse of public funds should be met with tough penalties for perpetrators. The management should be more alert when registering members and disbursing the stipends and improve payment modules to ease access.
Maggie Kuhn, the American activist who founded Gray Panthers, a movement against ageism and other social justice issues in America, said: “Old age is not a disease — it is strength and survivorship, triumph over all kinds of vicissitudes and disappointments, trials and illnesses.”
The Jubilee government may have had its highs and lows, but this programme could turn out to be its greatest legacy. The social protection project for the hitherto forgotten elderly is a crown of glory for grey hair.
Ms Gatwiri is a journalism student at Moi University. [email protected]