GUATEMALA CITY – Forty percent of Guatemala’s estimated 900,000 residents over the age of 60 are living in a state of poverty, the national ombudsman’s office said.
The office said in a communique on the occasion of Sunday’s first National Older Adult Day that citizens over 60 suffer greatly from “conditions of inequality, poverty, exclusion, violence and discrimination.”
Exclusion from the labor market and the absence of state assistance programs for the elderly are the main contributors to their poverty, the statement said, while also noting the impact of a crime wave that has pushed Guatemala’s murder rate to an average of 17 a day.
During the first nine months of 2009 no less than 181 people over 60 years old were murdered, an increase of 16 percent over the same period in 2008.
The amount of violence affecting older adults also showed up in a report that 37 out of every 100 complaints received by the ombudsman’s office from this sector of the population speak of mistreatment, threats, and physical and psychological violence, the communique said.
Ombudsman Sergio Morales urged Guatemalan society to reflect on all that these older adults are going through and demanded that the authorities guarantee their comprehensive well-being.
The government of President Alvaro Colom launched this year a program benefiting older adults with $400 quetzals ($48.19) a month, but the number of people included in this program has not been announced.
Fifty-two percent of Guatemala’s 13.3 million people live below the poverty line and 15.2 percent are classified as destitute, while a study released in February found that 45.6 percent of Guatemalan children suffer from chronic malnutrition. EFE