Taking care of the elderly: stories of neighbourliness towards Bethlehem’s sick and marginalised

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Alone, abandoned by their families, sick and without access to care services: it’s difficult to be elderly in Bethlehem. Since the Palestinian health system depends on international aid, it is therefore is unable to provide accessibility to essential services. The people of the Palestinian Territories are suffering the socio-economic consequences, such as malnutrition, the impossibility of continued support for chronic diseases, and a lack of medicine and suitable facilities.

In particular, there are no services at all for dependent elderly people, nor social security programmes or pension funds that could alleviate, even if only partially, the burden carried by their families. All of this leads to a continuous increase in cases of elderly people who are living alone, or entrusted to shelters that, due to the crisis, are unable to meet their primary needs or guarantee basic medical care.

ATS Pro Terra Sancta, supported by Saint Anthony’s Charities of Padova, has set up a system to help elderly people with chronic diseases access the drugs they require without suffering the burden of the cost. These are all cases of elderly people who have been left alone in the world, or are not supported in any way by their family. The Franciscan Social Services Office does everything possible to cover, partially or fully, the monthly costs of their drugs, helping them to keep diseases such as osteoporosis, hypertension, diabetes, schizophrenia, Alzheimers and many others requiring high number of drugs, under control.

Thanks to this system and the attention that ATS Pro Terra Sancta has for years placed on the elderly in Bethlehem, these people no longer feel completely alone in the world, in the knowledge that the Almighty will always find a way to overcome obstacles and be close to the poor.