Traditionally, elder care in Uganda is covered by the extended family. The younger, energetic members of the clan are a kind of ‘insurance’ for the elderly. In modern Uganda, a range of factors now makes that traditional approach very difficult and bordering on unsustainable.
There is no specific Government Ministry for elder care; however a Department responsible for the elderly has been established within one of the Government Ministries. Despite this, there is rudimentary policy and a limited pilot program for elder care.
Over the last 25 years or so, there has been mass internal migration from rural to urban living which has brought about the fracturing of family and clan units that traditionally sustained Uganda’s elder care. Add to that the international debt crisis, unemployment, poverty, disease (especially HIV/AIDS, malaria and typhoid), lack of any social security system and the influence of foreign cultures, responsibility for elder care has been seriously neglected and tends to fall on any who have compassion. Often, this is the churches and mosques.
Many women, for instance, no longer have a secure or safe place to go to pursue their traditional pursuits such as art and craft production. This has a devastating effect on their sense of self worth and impacts the economic life of the family, the village and the clan.
FOWEPLAK was established in the Kiboga district around ten years ago and brings together people of compassion and wisdom (and a serious sense of the call of God) to create new paths for elder care in their community.
The major issues they seek to address in their plans and programs are poverty; housing; food and nutrition; HIV/AIDS; healthcare generally; social security and disability issues; and local conflicts and emergencies (e.g. injuries, accidents and deaths).
In FOWEPLAK, particular attention is being paid to:
- Physical disability
- Impaired mobility
- Chronic disease (e.g. diabetes) and infections
- Eye defects and blindness
- Heart disease
The way the FOWEPLAK team works is to provide whatever support the older person needs, usually in one of three ways: visiting in the home where the person is staying; assisting relatives to provide the care; providing services and facilities through Elim Church Kiboga where the older person can attend and be involved.