Mozambique: UN expert urges to safeguard older persons from abuse and violence – especially in emergency situations

Mozambique: UN expert urges to safeguard older persons from abuse and violence – especially in emergency situations

Maputo/Geneva (2 May 2019) – A UN independent expert appointed by the United Nations visiting Mozambique commended the Government for its commitment and efforts made in adopting policies and legislation ensuring that older persons enjoy their rights, while stressing that action towards implementation is required. Mindful of the current emergency situation, she urged the authorities to safeguard older persons from abuse and violence.

Ageing in Mozambique is just beginning to take shape. As the projected growth rate of the older population in sub-Saharan Africa is expected to be faster than that experienced by any other region, the challenges associated with the demographic transition are general and imminent.

“While I came to Mozambique to assess the situation of human rights of older persons, it was hit by Cyclone Kenneth only six weeks after Cyclone Idai made landfall in the country,” the Independent Expert said.

“I wish to express my solidarity with the peoples of Mozambique – old and young. I am deeply saddened at reports of loss of lives and massive destruction. I visited some of the Cyclone affected areas and am struck by the devastation and suffering it created. Mozambique continues to face exceptional challenges. While I trust that the United Nations and humanitarian partners are providing the necessary support to national authorities in assessing needs and delivering assistance, I feel compelled to appeal to the international community for additional resources. These are critically needed to fund the response in the immediate, medium and longer term,” the expert added.

“Emergency response and relief operations have to be conducted in line with humanitarian and human rights principles,” the UN expert urged. “Older persons are disproportionally affected and particularly vulnerable to abuse and violence in such situations. Detection of and protection from abuse and violence therefore need to be made an absolute priority. Safety and security measures are crucial, as are age-sensitive shelter areas which are protection necessities,” she said. “We need to be mindful that exclusion can be the result of inadequate assistance, be it inapt food items, lack of medication for chronic diseases. Relocation or resettlement of older persons need not disrupt their enjoyment of their human rights”.

“I encourage the Government to pursue its commitment towards older persons,” Rosa Kornfeld-Matte said. “Mozambique’s Older People’s Policy and the National Plan of Ageing Issues 2015-2019, the National Basic Social Security Strategy, the Old Age Grant as well as the Law on the Promotion and Protection of Older People’s Rights are milestones in this regard. It is regrettable however that this commitment is not translating into effective implementation, as a result of extremely limited available resources allocated to meet the needs of older persons,” the UN Expert said.

“Mozambique faces a number of serious health challenges, including an HIV/AIDS epidemic, and I commend the Government for its efforts to ensure provision of adequate care to older persons. Against this background, addressing old-age poverty is also linked to addressing child poverty, as many older persons bear the brunt of caring for orphans and vulnerable children due to HIV/AIDS.”

“Access to health care services remains a challenge for older persons, particularly for those with limited mobility and least family support, notably in rural areas. High transportation costs for those older persons living in rural areas as well as lack of ID documents are significant barriers. I am also concerned at the lack of a comprehensive public health policy on dementia and mental health.”

Noting the high poverty rates among older persons of around 23%, Kornfeld-Matte added that “financial and economic abuse experienced by older persons is another area of concern. Older persons are left to endure social isolation and economic deprivation as their housing, land & property rights, social grants, pensions or livelihoods are being misused.”

“In this context, I am puzzled at the scale of witchcraft accusations on older persons – and particularly women – are used to validate abuse, violence and neglect or even killings. Witchcraft-related beliefs and practices are too often taken as explanation for undiagnosed dementia and other cognitive health conditions. This is fatal and action is imperative to eliminate this pattern.”

“The prevalence of elder abuse indicates that normative action is not enough and that further measures are required to detect, report and prevent all forms of abuse of older persons, safeguards need to be put in place against their economic exploitation and other forms of abuse, violence or maltreatment.”

“The UN Sustainable Development Goals have a key objective to leave no one behind. This certainly extends to older persons as well. I hope that Mozambique will be able to capitalize on the momentum it created for the protection of the rights of older persons, even in the face of post disaster situation and the humanitarian crisis as a result of Cyclones Idai and Kenneth exacerbating the economic challenges,” she said.

During her visit, Ms Kornfeld-Matte visited Maputo, Beira as well as Chimoio, Manica and the Sofala region and met with various representatives of Government authorities, humanitarian organisations, academia and civil society as well as others working on the rights of older persons and older persons themselves.

The Independent Expert will present her findings and recommendations of her country visit in a report to the UN Human Rights Council in September 2019.


Ms. Rosa Kornfeld-Matte(Chile) was appointed by the Human Rights Council as the first Independent Expert on the enjoyment of all human rights by older persons in May 2014. Ms. Kornfeld-Matte served as the National Director of the Chilean National Service of Ageing where she designed and implemented the National Policy of Ageing. She has a long career as an academic and is the founder of the programme for older persons at the Pontificia Unversidad Católica de Chile.

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

UN Human Rights, Country Page – Mozambique