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Elderly in BangladeshThe world currently has approximately 720 million people over the age of 65. By 2050, about 22% (36 million) of Bangladesh’s people are projected to be in this age category. With this in mind, it is important that this growing demographic is taken care of. In particular, the poverty affecting the elderly in Bangladesh is a concern that should be attended to.

Elderly Poverty in Bangladesh

Bangladesh is one of the most impoverished countries and the effects of poverty are felt hardest by vulnerable populations like the elderly. The Global AgeWatch Index ranks countries by how well their older populations are faring socially and economically. Bangladesh is considered a distinctly tough country for older people as HelpAge International ranked Bangladesh 67th out of 96 countries on the 2015 Global AgeWatch Index.

The organization notes that a considerable amount of the hardship inflicted upon older people in Bangladesh is due to natural disasters and extreme weather. Cyclones, floods, and heatwaves destroy the homes and livelihoods of elderly people. Additionally, HelpAge notes that elderly people in Bangladesh are often refused healthcare due to ageism within the country’s public health system.

Elderly people in Bangladesh also struggle to maintain a dependable income since finding employment is harder with age, especially with common and physically demanding jobs like rickshaw pulling or soil digging.  As in many other lower-income countries, elderly people in Bangladesh have to look for employment in old age due to inadequate livelihood support and insufficient social security measures.

While by no means exclusive to Bangladesh, another problem that the elderly face in Bangladesh is stigma, as pointed out by Dr. Atiqur Rahman. The stigma described is one that views the elderly as unproductive, unhealthy and needing intensive and constant care. Dr. Rahman describes the idea of the elderly being a burden as both morally and economically incorrect.

Old Age Allowance Program

The Old Age Allowance (OAA) program is a government social pension scheme that assists the elderly in Bangladesh. Originally implemented in 1997, the program provides welfare payments to qualifying elders in order to help them get by. The overall size of the program was rather small at its inception, supporting about 400,000 people. Since then, the OAA has come to cover 4.4 million elderly in Bangladesh and the size of the payments increased from 100 to 500 Bangladeshi takas (around $6). Granted the growth is a step in the right direction, the program is not yet at a point where it can help in the broad sense. Elderly poverty has still increased since it started. The OAA program accounts for a minuscule portion of Bangladesh’s budget (0.53%) and covers only 2.25 million elderly people.

Additionally, much of the fund is going to the wrong people. A study by the University of Dhaka’s Bureau of Economic Research and HelpAge International discovered that elderly people who are not impoverished are getting 50% of the total benefits and about 33% of the fund is going to those who are younger than the eligible age. Another study found that local governments lack the knowledge and interest to properly target relevant beneficiaries most in need.

Organizations Supporting the Elderly in Bangladesh

HelpAge International provides early warning systems for potential natural disasters. In times of these disasters, the organization ensures the elderly have shelter, food and access to services. For long-term relief, HelpAge restores livelihoods by supporting small business enterprises with low-cost community loans. The organization also provides training for healthcare workers to treat conditions affecting the elderly and works on improving healthcare infrastructure and referral systems for the elderly.

The Care First Foundation is an organization that offers the elderly in Bangladesh risk monitoring, referrals, counseling, medicine and medical support, home care and activities. Its goal is to expand its initiatives to alleviate elderly suffering through proper community support and services.

With more support from organizations and improvements to the social support system provided by the government, the elderly in Bangladesh can thrive and not just simply survive.

Sean Kenney
Photo: Flickr

Healthcare for Disabled PopulationsWorldwide, estimates have determined that more than 1 billion individuals live with some form of disability. In developing countries, access to healthcare is difficult enough with rural areas being far from main health centers and low socioeconomic status preventing optimal diagnosis and treatment. For disabled populations, low mobility leads to transportation difficulty, creating an additional barrier that compromises health and access to the nearest healthcare providers. Established in 1998, the Swinfen Charitable Trust (SCT) is a United Kingdom-based nonprofit organization that focuses on providing healthcare for disabled patients in developing countries through increased access to telehealth.

Disability as a Public Health Issue

Although 15% of the world lives with a form of disability, every person experiences varying limitations and healthcare needs. Article 25 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) states that those living with disabilities must receive the highest former of care without discrimination. Despite some countries upholding Article 25, many developing countries cannot provide the proper care for disabled individuals.

Beyond discrimination experienced in the health sector, individuals with disabilities face various barriers to healthcare. To begin, they typically encounter prohibitive costs for health services and transportation since a disability can create the need for a specially adapted vehicle in order to travel to the nearest healthcare professional. Estimates have stated that more than half of people experiencing a disability are unable to cover the costs they incur in healthcare, compared to approximately a third of people for those who are able-bodied. Also, physical barriers prevent disabled people from being able to access certain buildings and essential medical appointments. Inaccessible medical equipment, poor signage and inadequate bathroom facilities all comprise potential barriers. For example, medical professionals can often deny disabled women breast and cervical screening since the tables are not adjustable to one’s height and mammography equipment cannot accommodate women who are unable to stand.

The Swinfen Charitable Trust’s Mission

The Swinfen Charitable Trust (SCT) focuses on the disabled population of the developing world. SCT creates telemedicine links between healthcare centers in the developing world and medical professionals globally, who provide complementary diagnosis and treatment services. SCT represents the longest operating telemedicine nonprofit in existence. To date, there are 366 referring hospitals and more than 700 specialists providing their expertise to disabled people in developing countries free of charge. People can download the app called SCT Telemedicine on mobile phones and SCT has established telemedical links in 78 countries.

SCT raises money that goes toward improving the telemedicine experience and accessibility for disabled patients in developing countries. To begin, financial contributions provide round-the-clock system operators who have the task of analyzing and allocating new cases to specialists. Also, the money raised grants on-site support to partners for telemedical coverage implementation in local communities. This is especially crucial in remote areas of the developing world. Finally, any additional funds are allocated to expanding care to new countries or villages that are struggling to deliver adequate healthcare for disabled populations.

Improving the Lives of the Vulnerable

With a rising technologically dependent world, the Swinfen Charitable Trust is attempting to bridge the gap between poverty and healthcare access in developing countries, particularly for vulnerable populations. By establishing the means for disabled populations to access telemedicine, the disabled population can overcome healthcare barriers and improve their quality of life and life expectancy significantly.

– Sarah Frances
Photo: Flickr

Benefits of Hosting RefugeesIn 2019, the U.N. Refugee Agency reported that there were about 26 million refugees globally. An estimated 68% of refugees come from just five countries: Syria, Venezuela, Afghanistan, South Sudan and Myanmar. Refugees exist in a state of flux, with their futures and fates in the hands of potential host countries. Refugees are one of the world’s most vulnerable groups yet the idea of hosting refugees comes with hesitancies due to misinformation and misconceptions. There are several benefits of hosting refugees.

Refugees Bring Productivity

There is a misconception that refugees come into a host country and subsist on benefits instead of working. Though not every country allows refugees to work, those that do allow this, see just how productive refugees are. Often unable to use their credentials in other countries, refugees are known for starting from the ground up and they are effective at it. Economic advisor, Phillipe Legrain, estimates that 1,000 refugee businesses could generate $100 million each year. If host countries loosen restrictions and allow refugees to expand their job opportunities, it could significantly improve the economies in host countries.

This would also mean making language learning classes and integration courses more accessible, but in the long run, the fiscal rewards outweigh the cost. Countries that allow refugees to work and open up businesses know that the influx of productivity is one of the major benefits of taking in refugees.

Refugees Enrich Culture

Some fear that accepting refugees means that the native culture will disappear. According to Anna Crosslin of the International Institute in St. Louis, cross-cultural understanding is vital for integration. Events like the annual Festival of Nations, which is run by the International Institute, not only help expose St. Louis residents to other global cultures but also help immigrants feel more at home. Even though there are differences between each culture, most cultures are incredibly similar at their core. Refugees are fleeing the same things ordinary citizens fear: families being torn apart, the right to vote being taken away, lack of education and more.

Refugees do not aim to disrupt the culture of their host countries but enrich it. They may bring with them different practices, foods and religions, but in the end, most people have similar ideals.

Refugees Stimulate the Economy

The more people participating in a country’s economy the better. Economic activity alone is one of the many benefits of taking in refugees. There is an initial investment required when allowing refugees into a country. Housing, language classes, healthcare, sustenance. All of these things cost a significant amount of money to provide, but once refugees are established in their host country, the initial investment pays off.

Refugees start businesses that employ locals, pay taxes and generate wealth. In countries with an aging workforce, young refugees entering the workforce complement their work and allow them to retire, while also contributing to social security or pension funds. Being able to work and make money, in general, allows refugees to stimulate the economy of their host country. Refugees allowed to work and enterprise are great for an economy, much more so than refugees that are not allowed in or not allowed to work.

Refugees Complement the Job Market

There is a misassumption that refugees take jobs away from their host country’s job market. Most studies conclude that refugees have very little effect on the job market at all. The U.S. State Department’s analysis of the labor market over a 30-year period showed that not only did refugees not negatively impact the job market, but they had no effect when compared to regions with no refugee population.

The work migrants do actually fill in the job market. In the United States, it is migrants doing much of the hard, physically demanding work like farming and cleaning meat and fish for consumption. These are jobs that not many native citizens want to do. The economic benefits of taking in refugees are also seen in areas with low domestic migration. In these places, migrants offer an economic boost that native citizens do not.

Refugees Bring Novel Skillsets and Knowledge

Many cultures make rugs, but who makes them like the Persians? Who can delicately remove the meat from a poisonous pufferfish like a Japanese sushi chef? Every country and culture has something that makes them stand out, something that they can teach and share with others.

Refugees offer language skills that natives might not. Many already have professional qualifications from their home countries. Most refugees exhibit a high degree of adaptability, a skill that is important in every industry. To top it off, organizations benefit greatly from diversity, experiencing greater profits, collaboration and retention than organizations that are not as diverse. Though refugees are not the only way an organization can become more diverse, the experiences, skills and perspectives gained are some of the greatest benefits of hosting refugees.

Welcoming Refugees

Resistance to accepting refugees is often due to misconceptions. Native citizens fear a disruption in their economy and culture. But in actuality, refugees stimulate the economy, enrich culture and supplement the job market. Better understanding the benefits of hosting refugees will hopefully mean that countries globally will be more accepting of this vulnerable group, realizing that benefits are provided on both sides.

– Maddey Bussmann
Photo: Flickr