First Indian NGO to receive the honour
Geetanjali Minhas | December 12, 2020 | Mumbai
HelpAge India has become the first Indian non-profit to win the ‘2020 UN Population Award’ in the institutional category for raising awareness and devising solutions to the issues faced by the elderly population for the past four decades.
HelpAge India has been working in the field of care of disadvantaged older persons for more than four decades in 125 districts spread across 25 states. The award is recognition for its impactful work with and for disadvantaged elderly.
Since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, HelpAge India has reached out and provided relief and aid to more than 10 lakh elders and their families, destitute and homeless persons and migrants across India though various relief initiatives.
The UN agency partnered with HelpAge India during Covid-19 to meet and address the challenges and special vulnerabilities and risks faced by older persons in India. The programme reached out to more than 3,00,000 older persons through different interventions across 17 states including Delhi, Bihar, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Telangana, Uttarakhand, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Assam, Maharashtra, and Tamil Nadu.
The award recognises HelpAge India’s outstanding contribution to population issues and its efforts in the realisation of older person’s rights in India since 1978. It includes a diploma certificate, a gold medal and a monetary prize which were handed over at a felicitation ceremony organised by UNFPA India Country Office in New Delhi on Friday.
Every year the United Nations honors an individual and/or institution for outstanding contributions to population and reproductive health questions. Besides Helpage India in institutional category, Indira Gandhi and JRD Tata are the only individuals from India so far to have received this award, in 1983 and 1993 respectively.
“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 or 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,” said Argentina Matavel Piccin, representative, UNFPA India, at the awards ceremony.
“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. 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 entire space of elders,” said Kiran Karnik, chairperson, HelpAge India.
Prakash Narayan Borgaonkar, head, HelpAge India, Maharashtra and Goa, said, “For more than 42 years we have been working in the field of elder care and help them become self-reliant. We have received help from our various supporters, donors, supporters and well wishers without whom it would not have been possible for us to reach far and wide and amplify our work.”
HelpAge India runs one of the largest mobile healthcare programmes through its mobile healthcare units spanning across country and providing free healthcare services to 3 million vulnerable and destitute elders. It helps elders become self-reliant and independent through the formation of elder self-help groups in rural India and supports 95,584 older persons through 7,415 such groups in 16 states. Helpage India conducts cataract surgeries to restore their sight, looks after their basic needs though its Support-a-Grain ration programme. It provides homecare support to bed-ridden patients and works hand-in-hand with senior citizens associations and runs digital literacy workshops for seniors so they can lead independent and active lives. It also runs a school advocacy program sensitising young children towards elder needs and treating elders with love, care and respect.
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