For the Health and Safety of the Older People in the Times of Pandemic

30 September 2020
Leila Fangani. Photo: Dina Oganova / UNFPA Georgia

Leila Fangani, a 64 year old internally displaced woman, lives in a temporary shelter for years, without a natural gas or tap water supply.  She says that the food and hygiene items she received from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Georgia Office and the Georgian Red Cross Society during the pandemic was the first assistance of this type for her.

A 75 year old Zeinab Geldiashvili from Gori, who lost her apartment several years ago and now found a shelter at her relative’s and leads a lonely life after the death of her husband, speaks about the need to help socially vulnerable older people.  “When the pandemic hit us, mainly neighbors assisted me with food supply. Luckily, they opened a bread shop nearby and I could get there myself.  This type of assistance means a lot to me, if I don’t have to go out and buy food, it is already a big thing for me.”

Zeinab Geldiashvili. Photo: Dina Oganova / UNFPA Georgia

An 85 year old Shota Chkhvimiani, who has dedicated decades of his life to teaching and upbringing of new generations, is now absolutely destitute and with the help of neighbors and relatives maintains a small garden in Dmanisi. The risks imposed by the COVID-19 have restricted his limited connection with the outer world even further.  “My biggest worry is that I have nobody to talk to”- says the former teacher who has a desperate need for human relations.  

Shota Chkhvimiani. Photo: Dina Oganova / UNFPA Georgia

Similarly to Leila Fangani and Zeinab Geldiashvili, the pandemic put a strain on many socially vulnerable single older people. Today, there are 41 000 senior citizens living in extreme poverty, alone.  Majority are women.  The necessity to isolate and stay at home restricted access to vitally important products and medical services for many of them.  In order to reduce the risk, there was a need to provide them with information materials on COVID-19 specifically designed for older persons and protective equipment. 

In the framework of the UN Joint Programme “Assisting the Georgian Government and Local Communities in Mitigating the Impact of COVID-19” implemented with financial support from the UN COVID-19 Response and Recovery Multi-Partner Trust Fund and the Government of Germany, the United Nations Population Fund Georgia Office has provided food, hygiene items and personal protective gear along with the important information materials on recommendations for protection from COVID-19 approximately to 4100 single vulnerable older people living alone in the seven poorest municipalities.  

In the framework of the programme, the United Nations Population Fund and the Red Cross Society covered Residential Institutions and Community Care Homes for older people, including Care Home  “Salbuni” offering community services to older people in Kareli municipality.  According to Liana Chubinidze, Director of the Care Home, provision of hygiene items and protective equipment to protect health and safety of her beneficiaries is of the utmost importance in the times of pandemic.  

According to Lela Bakradze, Head of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Georgia Office, “Older people have always been in the center of attention of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).  In Georgia we have initiated many important step towards healthy and active aging, etsablshiment of dignified environment  for older people. Today, when we have to co-exist with the COVID-19 pandemic, the awareness of their needs and proper response is of the paramount importance.   It especially applies to socially vulnerable senior citizens living alone.  We are pleased that in the framework of the UN Joint Project and together with our partners we managed to reach those who under the circumstances  needed our support the most”.

With the support of the UNFPA, volunteers of the Georgian Red Cross Society deliver the packages to the older people in the targeted municipalities.  “The Georgian Red Cross Society at all stages of its existence provided care to older people, while during the COVID-19 pandemic we have expanded the services with the aim to provide healthcare as well as social support. The Georgian Red Cross Society in cooperation with the UNFPA managed to deliver hygiene and food packages to older people living in seven municipalities of the country and also provide recommendations and advice relevant to the virus.”- says Natia Loladze, President of the Georgian Red Cross Society.

Until the world finally defeats the COVID-19, Shota Chkhvimiani continues to carefully follow all safety recommendations and advises other older people: “I trust everything I hear on TV and read in this leaflet.  I do wear my facemask.  I understand that I am responsible for my own protection and protection of others too”.