Friday, 10 October 2014

Bujumbura, Burundi - The elderly are at the center of Sant’Egidio’s commitment to that country

On October 1st, we celebrated the International Day of the Elderly, established by the United Nations in 1990. For the occasion, the Sant’Egidio Community of Burundi gathered all those - institutional or other - who are interested in the elderly’s condition to reflect on the social protection of the elderly in Burundi.
Burundi is one of the youngest countries in the world, with a fertility index of 6.4 children per woman and a population growth rate of 3.1%. On the other hand, the increase in life
expectancy, the improvement of living conditions, etc. suggest that over the coming decades the population will experience a very rapid aging process. It is therefore important that the key national players in Burundi assess the current reality and future prospective of the elderly in that country. A vision for the future is necessary.
At the center of the conference organized by Sant’Egidio were the social protection of the elderly in Burundi and the attitude of those around them.
Today, support for the elderly is primarily based on family networks. The overwhelming majority of the population in Burundi does not have a retirement option, as the term is used in the North of the world. Pensions are restricted to public employees and a few employees of the private sector. There is also no guarantee for the elderly in terms of health services under Burundi’s welfare system. It will be necessary therefore to “sensitize the nation” promoting greater protection for the elderly and develop a more empathetic outlook towards the old Burundians. This had already been stated in February in a similar workshop attended by Mons. Matteo Zuppi. Far from being a problem or a burden, the elderly are - quoting his presentation from a few months ago - “a resource for society”, because it is time to build or strengthen “an alliance among generations”.

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