The well-painted large building with a big mango tree near the entrance belie the terrible life the occupants are subjected to. This is a ‘home’ of around 70 people with disabilities and the elderly people in Morogoro township.
At 10 am, when I arrived at the camp, nurses were still cleaning the rooms and all the belongings of the people with disabilities were placed outside the building.
Torn bed-sheets and mattresses characterized the scenery. The curiosity of the people with disabilities and the elderly grew after I had introduced myself. While the people with disabilities thanked for the coming, workers at the camp insisted that I should see the camp’s boss.
This reporter was denied entry to the camp to interview the occupants of the camp saying it is forbidden for them to talk to the media.
The people with disabilities asked this reporter to come at a convenient time so that they could air their views without the presence of their masters.
The Morogoro Regional Social Welfare, Oswin Ngingamsitu, was later informed by his juniors and promised to see this reporter later in the day, but could not turn up for the appointment.
Some of his fellow workers described him as uncooperative and said he is on leave but never delegated his powers as overall in-charge of the camp.
Speaking about their plight the people with disabilities at the camp said their lives are deplorable.
“Electricity has been cut. We are forced to stay in the dark, and you know what it means for persons with disabilities to stay during the night without light.
Speaking on behalf of his fellows, a blind man known for his aggressiveness at he camp Caspar Thomas, said, “We have to buy kerosene using our meager income we get from begging in the streets to light our lamps.
“If we do not get it, we sleep in the darkness,” he says.
He says the absence of efficient water system has made them “stink like rotten eggs.”
He also spoke of lack of medicine at the camp. “It is difficult for us to consult medical practitioners because we have no means to do so. Please tell the authorities to help us in that.
A staff member at the camp told this reporter that she was also disappointed with the way the camp is being run. He said there is no clinical officer stationed at the camp to take care of the health problems affecting people with disabilities.
The Morogoro Elderly People’s Organization (MOREPEO) has termed the condition subjected to the Fungafunga Camp for People with Disabilities and the elderly as dreadful and has asked the government to intervene.
The Director of the non-governmental organization, Samson Msemembo has said residents at the camp mostly the elderly and people with disabilities have to always go outside the camp to ask for alms from Samaritans.
“The most appalling thing is that these poor elderly people and those with disabilities are not properly getting their daily ration. Sometimes they have to go hungry because food is not there,” he says.
Msemembo says the administration has for a long time failed to pay the one tendering food for the c amp.
The MOROPEO director says there is always no electricity at the camp because it has failed to pay TANESCO the required bills.
“As if that is enough, water provision at the camp has been cancelled, also because the camp under the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare has failed to pay for it,” he says.
He says he has visited several times with the officials of the ministry and the found the situation not improving.
“This situation has made them to more psychologically affected and many have made ends meet by begging in the streets of Morogoro,” he says.
He says he is forced to make such comments because his organization is vested with the duty of improving the life of the elderly and people with disabilities who include among others the people at the Fungafunga camp.
Assistant Commissioner, Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, Beatrice Fungamo, was not cooperative in responding to questions posed by this reporter stating that this reporter had already infringed what she termed as ‘government administrative norms’ by going to Fungafunga camp without first informing her ministry that he was going to the camp.
While referring this reporter to the Permanent Secretary to the Ministry she said she understands that the camp had a myriad of problems but said there was nothing the ministry could do about that.
“We provide the necessary things and there is nothing one can do if they do not suffice,” she said.
Concerning the electricity and water cuts by the relevant authorities, the assistant commissioner just said “just go to the Permanent Secretary he will answer that.”
According to available statistics, Tanzania with an estimated total population of 39,500,000 has about 1.4 million older people (4 percent of the total population) aged 60 years and above. This figure will increase to 8.3 million (10 percent of the total population by the year 2050.
The National aging policy notes that older people have not received the recognition they deserve, a situation which denies their right to own and inherit property.
The National Ageing Policy observes that economically, older people are among the poorest in the society. Various groups of older people such as peasants, herdsmen and fishermen do not belong to any formal social security system.
Retired older people who are members of the Social Security schemes face problems resulting from inadequate benefits and bureaucratic bottlenecks. Furthermore, the existing poverty reduction strategies do not include older people.
The life situation and circumstances of older people demand for national policy to guide the provision of services and their participation in the life of the community, it says.
The national Ageing Policy therefore addresses the recognition of elder people as an important resource in national development, allocation of enough recourses with a goal of improving service delivery to older people and involving older people in decision making in matters that concern them and the nation at large.
Others are involving older people in income generation activities and to provide legal protection to older people as a special group.