Thank you, Madame Chair, for your excellent leadership in this difficult time. I also thank the panelists for their insightful remarks. This has been a very rich discussion.
Let me begin by paying my condolences for the sad loss of the elderly people to the COVID-19 pandemic. Indeed, the impact of the pandemic for the aged population has been particularly devastating; accounting for a disproportionately high number of COVID casualties globally. They are also suffering from isolation, trauma and discrimination. As we build back better from the pandemic, we must ensure that older people are treated with dignity and their rights are protected.
The situation of the aged in Bangladesh in the pandemic has also been hard. They accounted for nearly 50% of the Covid related deaths. They have also been affected by poverty as they are mostly dependent on the incomes of their children.
During the pandemic lockdown, the national helpline “333” was repurposed to enable millions of people access medical and other live saving services which was of great help to the aging population. The older people are also receiving COVID vaccine on a priority basis. The government has rolled out extensive Covid recovery stimulus packages. Food and cash grants are also being provided, including to the aged population, especially those who are living in poverty and in distressed situations among them.
We have fairly comprehensive and strong national policies, such as the National Social Welfare Policy 2006, National Policy on Ageing 2013, Maintenance of the Parents Act 2013 and the National Social Security Strategy (NSSS) 2015, for the welfare of the aged population. Since 2001, we have introduced old-age allowance, targeted to the poor and vulnerable segment of older persons, with special provisions for aged women, including widows and those abandoned by their families. Digital and mobile-based money transfer system has also changed the lives of the older people.
Respect for and ensuring the welfare of the elderly is deeply entrenched in our socio-cultural fabric and extended family system. However, as families gradually turn nuclear, the elderly are facing an unfamiliar and uncertain situation. Recognizing this new reality, facilities and old-age homes are being set up, with extended health care and medical services. Obviously, there’s more to be done, and in our endeavours we are also reaching out to the private sector. The pandemic crisis has also revealed the gaps and the need for strengthening further the social safety net programmes for the aged.
Now turning to the global situation and response to the older population in this pandemic, we all agree that there is certainly much more to be done.
We thank the Secretary General for his policy brief on impacts of Covid on Older Persons, which was a very timely initiative.
Ageing is a cross-cutting issue in Agenda 2030 with linkages among the various SDGs, such as on poverty eradication (Goal 1), good health and well-being (Goal 3), gender equality (Goal 5), or inequalities (Goal 10). It is imperative to integrate the older people in our common strategies to achieve the Agenda 2030.
Allow me to briefly share some thoughts in this regard:
First: Older people must be made part of our response and recovery. The knowledge, experience and perspectives of older persons could pay essential role in our efforts to building back better.
Second: Governments must make sure that the older persons have access to adequate social protection measures. The coverage of old age allowances may be broadened to ensure that no one is left behind. The private sector and civil society must also join hands to address the needs of older persons
Third: We must remember that on one is expendable in a pandemic. Older people are equally entitled to health service and COVID vaccines, and should be provided with similar health care without any exception. In fact, they must also receive priority attention relating to their social and psychological needs.
Finally: While the Madrid International Plan of Action and the Political Declaration of 2002 continue to remain guiding principles for enhancing promotion and protection of the human rights and dignity of older persons, it is perhaps time to redouble our efforts to conclude a multilateral legal instrument covering all aspects of the wellbeing of the older persons. Bangladesh would support and constructively engage in that process.
I wish to conclude by reiterating our commitment to ensure an inclusive, equitable and sustainable world for our elderly.
I thank you.