Liberia: House Passes Bill Seeking Welfare of Elderly People In Liberia
Capitol Hill, Monrovia – At long last, the House of Representatives has passed the bill establishing an old folks’ commission to cater to the needs of the elderly population in Liberia.
The bill, which is entitled ‘The National Commission for the Elderly in Liberia (NCEL), had been dangling in committee rooms for over three years since it was introduced by Rep. Richard Nagbe Koon (CPP, District #11, Montserrado County) received unanimous vote
The Plenary’s decision was based on a motion by Rep. Dixon Wlawlee Sebo (District #16, Montserradop County) following the reading of a report submitted by a five-member specialized committee headed by Rep. Tibelrosa Tarponweh of District #1, Margibi County.
In the report, the committee stated it held series of consultation with several interest groups including the Old Folks’ Secretariat which comprises of 16 community-based and residential organizations of the Coalition of Caregivers and Advocates for the Elderly in Liberia (COCAEL), the National Old Folks of Liberia (NOFOL) and other organizations with guidance of the survey conducted on the needs and rights of old people in Liberia by the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).
The Committee also said it held consultative meetings with lawyers, commissioners, the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection and the National Social Security and welfare Corporation. Owing to these consultations, the title of the bill was changed,” the Committee stated.
To pave the way for the creation of the act, the bill is seeking the amendment of Chapter 89 of the ‘Executive Law Establishing the National Social Security and Welfare Corporation of Liberia and Chapter 38 of the Executive Law establishing the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection’.
The Committee’s Chairman, Rep. Tarponweh, speaking to a team of reporters immediately following the passage of the bill by the Lower House on Thursday, said the bill will address the plights of the nation’s senior citizens and restore their dignity.
He said there were staunch opposition to the bill by some of his colleagues who argued that it will increase government’s spending amid a stressed budget. But the majority in favor of the legislative instrument was able to convince their colleagues for its passage.
He said although law will allow the Commission to seek external financial assistance, the government will take the lead in supporting the commission when it is established.
He said: “There was a concerned about the creation of this commission, looking at the economic situation. But the law itself is good. There is a need to cater to the needs of the elderly people. We all will be old one day.”
Recently, the crafter of the bill, Rep. Koon, made a passionate appeal to the House to act on the bill in order to begin the process of restoring the dignity of the nation’s senior citizens.
“Old people deserve a medal; a medal of existence which crowns their long-term victory against the cruelty of time and the dangers of this chaotic universe! Let us Love, care and treasure the elderly people in the society,” he urged.
“I sincerely believe that our older generation in Liberia has not been catered to adequately, we must build systems to handle them with love, care, passion and tenderness. What use is society if we can’t feed and care for our mothers, Fathers and Grandparents who are unable to feed and care for themselves?” he asked.
What is in the Bill?
According to section 4 of the bill, the function of the Commission, among other things include “To accredit and license institutions offering or plan to offer residential services and community based services to the elderly in Liberia after a thorough assessment of the entities; approve the fiscal Budget of the Commission in consultation with the Advisory Council and Executive Director; promote, provide and ensure access to basic social services, bearing in mind specific needs of older persons in Liberia; and to promote and enhance the safety, health, welfare and quality of the life of the elderly and aged caregivers and consumers.
The bill has been forwarded to the Liberian Senate where it is expected to be debated; and when passed will be forwarded to the President for signature to become law after it has been printed into hand bill by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Until these processes are met, it is not law.