COVID and Ageing Society Dialogues: Impact on Older Adults in Low-and-Middle Income Countries
The World Economic Forum's Global Future Council on Longevity, in collaboration with AARP and the National Academy of Medicine, is in the midst of a five-part dialogue series about COVID-19 and ageing societies. Five webinars during June and July are bringing together experts from government, academia, civil society, foundations and the private sector to consider key issues faced by older adults, while highlighting opportunities for action on ageing and health.
COVID-19 and Ageing Society: Part Four
South and Central America are now the new epicentre of the global coronavirus pandemic as cases continues to rise sharply, contributing to record numbers of new infections registered globally. Cases are also on the rise across Africa with experts now warning of the continent becoming the next epicentre of the outbreak. Fragile healthcare systems in many low- and middle-income countries could be overwhelmed in the face of a severe COVID-19 outbreak. The vulnerabilities of older adults may be particularly pronounced in these settings challenged by weak health systems, poor infrastructure and the specter of severe longer-term socio-economic effects of the crisis.
This fourth dialogue was moderated by Amal Abou Rafeh, Chief, Programme on Ageing, United Nations Department for Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA) with a keynote address by Alexandre Kalache, President ILC International Longevity Centre-Brazil. Panelists included:
- Abla Sibai, Professor and Chair of the Epidemiology and Population Health Department, American University of Beirut, co-Founder of the AUB University for Seniors Program and the founding Director of the “Center for Studies on Aging” in Lebanon
- Ademola Olajide, Country Representative, Kenya, UNFPA
- A B Dey, Professor and Head, Department of Geriatric Medicine, Former Dean (Research) Nodal Officer, National Center for Ageing, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi
- Laura Machado, CEO of InterAGE Consultoria em Gerontologia
- Justin Derbyshire, Chief Executive Officer, HelpAge International
- Anupam Sibal, President, Global Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (GAPIO, Group Medical Director, Apollo Hospitals Group, India
With special contributions from:
- Isabella Aboderin, Professor of Gerontology, Pervioli Chair in Africa Research and Partnerships, School for Policy Studies, University of Bristol
- Joy Phumaphi, Co-Chair, UN Secretary-General Independent Accountability Panel for Every Woman, Every Child, Every Adolescent; Executive Secretary, African Leaders Malaria Alliance (ALMA)
- As of today, 8 of the top 10 countries registering the highest number of new infections of COVID-19 are in low-and-middle income countries (LMICs)
- The pandemic has laid bare the risks that most governments, especially governments in LMICs, have ignored for decades: inadequate healthcare systems, social and economic inequality and other structural inequalities have been exacerbated by the pandemic in these regions
- The preventive measures critical to curbing infection and transmission of the virus remains a challenge in most LMICs. For example, challenges in observing physical distancing, access to clean water for hand washing and resources to procure protective products such as masks and hand sanitizers continues to be a challenge
- Partnership and collaboration has become a critical instrument to respond to the pandemic in many regions of LMICs where we have seen exemplary leadership from civil society and the private sector working together to support local and government responses to the pandemic
- Community and resource solidarity is crucial: in countries facing delayed response from governments, communities continue to self-organize and mobilize resources to support older persons to reduce risk of poverty, discrimination and isolation – using the community members to reach remote areas
- Pre-existing inequalities that existed prior to the pandemic are resulting in the differentiated impact of COVID-19 on communities today
Speakers urged that we use the lessons from this pandemic to ensure a more equitable and better world for all and more importantly, a more equitable and resilient outcome for older adults.