Since the outbreak of the Coronavirus pandemic and its attendant tragic results, the victims have remained largely the aged made up of mostly pensioners.
Across the United States and Europe, mainly Italy, Spain, Germany among others, the reports of deaths due to the pandemic have been recorded largely against the elderly.
A quick research within the period of the outbreak has revealed that survival for those with underlying health issues, a development common with the old, is very remote.
While Nigeria has privileged information on this to prepare its pensioners and others against such an impending disaster, emerging realities on ground so far indicate that ailing and aging pensioners might be on their own if the situation becomes worse than it is at the moment.
So far, even though the federal and state government are busy setting up isolation centres to accommodate potential victims as well as rolling out miserable palliatives, current demographic analysis of events shows that the elderly are not being given special recognition despite their vulnerability to the pandemic.
According to an online publication, Vox, older people and people with chronic illness are at greater risk, and how it is responded to affects everyone.
The report noted that even before coronavirus reached more than 100 countries around the world, early data from China — where the outbreak started — suggested that older adults were the most vulnerable to the worst effects of the disease.
“Now, that data, along with emerging research from Italy — the second-most-affected country in the world — is showing just how dangerous Covid-19 is for older people, and others with with heart, lung, and immunological conditions.
“In Italy, a country with one of the world’s oldest populations, a March 4 analysis by the national health institute found that of the 105 patients who died from the virus, the average age was 81. This put a 20-year gap between the average age of people who tested positive for the virus and the deceased, the institute said. An ICU physician in Lombardy — the epicenter of Italy’s outbreak — was reported to have said that there had been only two deaths of people under the age of 50.
“This finding squared with some of the other best data on the risks of the new respiratory disease, from China’s Center for Disease Control. In a late February report, researchers looked at the first 72,314 patients with confirmed or suspected Covid-19 and discovered a huge variation in the case fatality rate by age group. In short, the disease appears to be deadlier in people with each passing decade.
“The lessons we learn from older patients could help us treat and prevent the spread. That makes it all the more important to understand the variables that put older adults at greatest risk so we can develop a strategy to protect society as a whole,” the report noted.
Frustrated by the development that has been further worsened by lockdown, pensioners under their umbrella, Nigerian Union of Pensioners [NUP], had to cry out recently for the Federal Government to include them in its plans for palliatives.
Their cry, which was not necessary if the government had them in mind, came following the pronouncement by President Muhammadu Buhari to expand the palliative to additional one million poor Nigerians.
According to a statement signed by the General Secretary, NUP, Elder Actor Zal, the senior citizens should be given priority among the beneficiaries of the palliative as they are the most vulnerable to the COVID-19 pandemic due to their old age.
Elder Zal appealed to President Buhari through the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 to think first of the pensioners as the government begins the distribution to the most vulnerable.
The union also appealed for the government to liaise with the national secretariat of the union in Abuja to ensure proper identification of genuine pensioners through state and local government offices.
“The Nigeria Union of Pensioners (NUP) national headquarters has made a passionate appeal to the Federal Government to include Nigerian pensioners as beneficiaries in the palliatives to vulnerable Nigerians, to cushion the effects of the lockdown as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic on the pensioners.
“Pensioners are one of the most vulnerable in the country and, therefore, appealed to the Presidential Task Force on COVID -19 to liaise with the union on how to get the palliative distribution to the real pensioners in all the nooks and crannies of the country,” the union noted.
The NUP further said that its members cut across all the 36 states of the federation and the FCT Abuja, as well as in all the 774 local government areas in Nigeria.
“Therefore, the union is well entrenched to ensure the distribution of the palliatives to their members at the grassroots with limited hitch,” the statement added.
The union said it had also written to the Chairman of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 and Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha, and the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Hajia Sadiya Umar Faruk, on the imperative of including the pensioners in the palliative.
Even with the pensioners practically making known their frustration in getting palliatives from the government, nothing much appears to have been done in this regard.
More frustrating is the fact that apart from some distribution centres where only young and able bodied men and women have the energy to scramble for palliatives as revealed through social media, what have gone out to Community Development Associations [CDAs] for homes are nothing short of an embarrassment.
Additionally disappointing too is the fact that while institutions, public and private, are advising those they deal with on the need to adhere to instructions by the World Health Organisation [WHO] and the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control [NCDC], the pensioners appear to be on their own.
The situation is daily becoming scary for everybody, especially the old and fragile as the currently does not have enough ventilators if the worst happens.
Despite the palpable fear, the oldest death recorded so far in the country has been that of Chief of Staff to the President, Mallam Abba Kyari whose age is said to be around 67, and a former Managing Director of Petroleum Products Marketing Corporation [PPMC] Engr Sulaiman Achimugu, whose age was also put at 67.
While Kyari died in a private hospital in Lagos, Achimugu was said to have died after returning from the United States where he had gone to treat himself for some underlying ailments.
As at 10:20 April 18, the NCDC confirmed total cases of over 500, with 152 discharged as well as 13 deaths.
In one of his briefings late last week,Lagos State Commissioner for Health, Prof. Akin Abayomi, who confirmed the deaths of three more patients on his official social media handle, stressed that one of
the cases did not have a travel history that warrants contracting the virus.
Abayomi said: “Unfortunately, Lagos recorded three additional deaths from coronavirus related complications. The deceased are males aged 51, 52 and 62.
“One of the dead; a medical doctor had contact with an infected person, who recently returned to the country.
“Other victims have no travel history or record of contact with any infected person.”
No doubt, although some Nigerians are still taking risks by flouting rules laid down to contain the pandemic, progress has, however. been made in the area of creating awareness by the government.
However, while the government is putting things in place to ensure minimal deaths in case of amplified outbreak, it should give special attention to pensioners and the aged by channeling their palliatives to them through their various associations.