New Delhi: For the first time in the nation’s history, an Indian institution ‘HelpAge India’ won the prestigious ‘2020 UN Population Award’ in its ‘institutional category’. The United Nations every year honours an individual and/or institution for outstanding contributions to population and reproductive health questions. This honour comes in recognition of the organization’s outstanding contribution to population issues and awareness, in its efforts in the realization of older person’s rights in India since 1978.
The United Nations Population Fund, India (UNFPA) held a felicitation ceremony today and presented the award, which included a Diploma Certificate, a gold medal and a monetary prize.
HelpAge India, which has been working for ‘the cause and care of disadvantaged older persons to improve their quality of life’ for over four decades. It receives this recognition for its impactful work with and for disadvantaged elderly. It works in 125 districts spread across 25 states in India. It voices elder concerns so they can lead secure and dignified lives. The aim is to serve elder needs in a holistic manner, enabling them to live active, dignified and healthier lives. HelpAge has been running numerous programs on-ground addressing elder needs, such as their right to universal pension, quality healthcare, action against elder abuse and several other initiatives at national, state and societal level with Central and State governments. The organisation has been advocating for elder-friendly policies and their implementation. It has reached out and provided relief and aid to over 10 lakh elders and their families, destitute & homeless persons and migrants across India, though its various relief initiatives during the COVID 19 pandemic.
Addressing ageing issues and concerns in India at the award ceremony today, Ms. Argentina Matavel Piccin, Representative of UNFPA India said, “This is a moment of immense pride and joy for all of us working here in India, especially for those of us who are working in the field of ageing and care of the elderly. To place the elderly and their needs squarely on the policy and budget allocations agenda of the country is a major priority. Your (HelpAge India’s) tireless and consistent efforts have finally paid off and caught the world’s attention, whether it is in operating one of the largest mobile healthcare networks, providing employment to the elderly or promoting inter-generational exchanges, linking young people with the aged. We must change the narrative and refocus on the elderly as a resource, a repository of vast knowledge. UNFPA is very proud of our partnership with HelpAge India”.
In his acceptance speech, Mr. Kiran Karnik, Chairperson, HelpAge India said, “It is an honour, on behalf of HelpAge India, to receive the UN Population Award 2020, a first for an Indian non-profit in this category. We are particularly happy to see ageing concerns being brought to centre-stage. In India, an overwhelming proportion of the elders are financially dependent on their families, and live with them. In many cases, they are perceived as a burden, and this sometimes results in ill-treatment and even violence. Elders face many issues – from financial, to physical, to psychological. Sickness and chronic afflictions – obviously common amongst elders – can mean large and unforeseen expenditures, something that most families cannot afford. There are also a large number of elders who are destitute, sometimes with no one to look after them. The many issues facing elders have been greatly amplified and expanded over the last one year as we seek to tackle the Covid 19 pandemic. Elders are even more vulnerable and need to take special care. UNFPA is among our most important and valued partners who have helped to take work forward in the whole space of elders”.
HelpAge India runs one of the largest mobile healthcare programs through its Mobile Healthcare Units spanning the country, providing free healthcare services to 3 million free treatments to vulnerable and destitute elders. It helps elders become self-reliant and independent through the formation of Elder-Self-Help-Groups in rural India; it supports 95,584 older persons through 7415 Elder-Self-Help Groups in 16 States. It conducts cataract surgeries to restore their sight, looks after their basic needs though its Support-a-Gran ration program. It also provides Homecare support to bed ridden patients. It works hand-in-hand with Senior Citizens Associations and empowers seniors through Digital Literacy workshops, so they can lead independent and active lives. It runs a school advocacy program sensitizing young children towards elder needs and urging them to treat elders with love, care and respect.
In an effort to meet the challenges faced by older persons in India in the context of the COVID 19 epidemic UNFPA partnered with HelpAge India to address the special vulnerabilities and risks that the elderly are facing. The programme reached more than 3,00,000 older persons through different interventions across seventeen states of Delhi, Bihar, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Telangana, Uttarakhand, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Assam, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and others.