Pensioners are feeling the Covid-19 heat as they struggle to cope with impact of lockdown measures have turned off other income taps.
According to the pensioners, businesses that used to supplement meager earnings they receive from pension fund to support them have either closed down or scaled down operations.
After years of pensioners petitioning the government to increase their benefits, in 2018, Rwanda Social Security Board (RSSB) reviewed pension payouts upwards, with the least paid currently earning Rwf13000 from a paltry Rwf5700 before.
Although the increment was welcomed, pensioners said there was no significant change in their livelihoods as many still couldn’t afford basic necessities, and continued to rely on hand-outs from their children and family members.
Some who invested for a rainy day have been depending on for instance rental income from their houses, but with the pandemic dampening business many have found it difficult to survive.
“RSSB has been paying us promptly even in this time of Covid-19, but the pandemic greatly affected our other sources, which complemented the small benefits we get.
“Some of the people we depend on lost their jobs, and businesses have been closed, these have been hard times for us” said Haguma Venant, a pensioner in Kigali.
Uwimana Dorothee, president of Rwanda pensioners association said many of the pensioners are battling chronic diseases like hypertension, diabetes, genital conditions and others, whose treatment is expensive.
“The ones who get the lowest amount in pensions are the most affected, many cannot afford the nutritious foods they are recommended to eat in managing their conditions.
“Others are living alone which depresses them, the Covid19 social distancing precautions, like limited movements and lockdowns made this worse” she said.