At 75, HIV woman lives a depressing life

February 13, 2012 12:37 pm
Elizabeth Wanjiru, 75, lives with HIV/AIDS/MUTHONI NJUKI

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 10 – At the heart of Korogocho slum resides Elizabeth Wanjiku, an elderly 75-year-old woman living with HIV, ailing and lonely.

Utensils are strewn on one side of this one roomed mud house as the fireplace shows evidence that no cooking has taken place in this home for quite some time. This is because she has no food to cook.

“This disease has affected my eyesight and my legs. I cannot walk,” Wanjiku tells us as she tries to sit on her tattered bed in her pitiable one roomed shanty.

A leaking roof leaves her drenched in water whenever it rains.

“When it rains heavily and for long, I take a polythene bag and cover myself, what can I do?” she poses.

“Even lighting the fireplace is difficult,” she adds.

For the last 10 years, Wanjiku has been fighting ill health that has left her paralysed and bed ridden.

“I just sit here until night falls then I sleep,” she says.

Wanjiku says she has no family after her only daughter passed away years ago. Although she left behind a son, she says he never visits her.

Her story is not isolated. It tells of the pain and suffering that many elderly people who have nobody to take care of them go through; a story of lost dignity and hopelessness.

Although the government set up a Social Protection Cash Transfer Fund for the elderly in 2009, it is yet to reach people like Wanjiku.

“This house can collapse anytime. This woman does not even get aid because she lacks an ID. It is the responsibility of the government to follow up and ensure such people have access to aid otherwise how can she be proud to be Kenyan? It pains a lot to see her like this,” says Margaret, a neighbour.

With such deplorable living conditions, one cannot help but to ask who is responsible of ensuring that such elderly people live in a decent manner.

“The government has the obligation. A government is judged by how it treats the weakest in their community and the government must not appear to neglect people who need them,” says Justus Nyang’aya, Director of Amnesty International – Kenya.

Under the constitution and the various international conventions that the government has ratified, Wanjiku’s economic, social and cultural rights have been infringed on.

“This woman does not have any avenue to express her frustrations and express her request and the requirement is that people need to access government,” Nyang’aya says.

“If the government is present then this woman and people around her need to know exactly where they need to go to seek help but because they don’t know where to go to, for them the government does not exist,” he adds.

All that Wanjiku looks forward to now is the day she will have access to a decent shelter and food.


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