When coronavirus (COVID19) broke out in China in 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) communicated that old people were more vulnerable to succumb to the killer virus and indeed many died.
Extra efforts were put in place to protect the global senior citizens from the virus which at the time had no cure or vaccines. The best way to protect people was through isolation, social distancing, wearing of masks and washing hands (sanitizing).
These measures have over the two years proven to be helpful but have come with negative social impacts like loneliness and depression. Globally, these negative impacts have greatly affected older people who have been disconnected from their children, relatives and friends.
The case has not been any different in Uganda where the media has reported old people dying of hunger and depression caused by the pandemic. The lockdowns put in place by government ensured that elderly people couldn’t access their relative for social support.
Well aware of that challenge, Leela Foundation has partnered with the directorate of ethics in the office of the president to help 80 elderly people in Nakawa Division, Kampala City to overcome the stress and depression caused by COVID19.
The 80 lucky beneficiaries, with support from Tirupati Group, were driven to Jinja City and given a weekend treat at the Source of the Nile Hotel to interact with like-minded people who had been affected by the pandemic.
“The feeling of being alone is the worst disease anyone of us can have. We have embraced them (elderly) and we have told them 'we are here for you'. That is a very big word, it means they no longer feel alone," said Kruti Juhi Barot, the founder of Leela Foundation, a charity organization, is quoted by Daily Monitor saying at the flagging off the elderly for the trip.
“So this trip is to get them out of that COVID stress that came with isolation and lack. The two years of covid19 have been tough years. So we want them to enjoy, have fun and bring back a smile on their faces. We are taking them to a five star hotel and they are going to ear amazing food, have an amazing time, entertainment and visit the Source of the Nile,” she added.
Lukia Nakadadma, the 3rd Prime Minister of Uganda and minister without Potfolio, speaking at the retreat in Jinja said it is good to bring old people together once in a while for a smile.
“These are people in most cases left alone in their homes; the children are gone and their grandchildren don't want to stay with them, so she is a grandparent alone in the house. The moment you bring that person here, to associate with others, you have added more years on that person. So if this goes around the country, it will be a good program” she noted.
The Indian Ambassador to Uganda Shri A. Ajay Kumar, lauded Leela Foundation and the Tirupati Group for helping the needy, especially the elderly through the tough covid19 period.
"I am very proud to stand here today to see that an NGO, run by an Indian family has earned a place in the minds of Ugandans in a very short time of their existence," Ambassador Kumar said.
Eunice Harriet Nalugya, a resident of Luzira, said this was her first trip ever since her retirement from prisons services in 2012. "I am so happy for this trip because ever since when I left prisons, I had never had an opportunity to go and get some fresh air and mingle with others," Nalugya, 77, said.
Florence Kyomugisha, 71, likened the elderly to children and that she was happy to be part of the selected 80. "Our years are like for children and once you are told you are going for a trip, we feel good and that is what I am feeling now," Kyomugisha, a resident of Naguru, said.