January 2016 DailyNews; ZANZIBAR government unveiled its plan for universal pension, last year, saying each elderly at the age of 70 and above will be entitled 20,000/-per month, starting in April.
The elderly have welcomed the government’s move, and eagerly await for the implementation. But the senior citizens have raised special request which needs to be considered even before the universal pension.
The elderly need to have special windows in all public hospitals and special medical staff. “This will minimize burdens facing us when seeking treatment,” said Mr Amani Suleiman-Secretary, Association of Retired Civil Servants and the Elderly in Zanzibar (JUMAZA), In the separate meetings with health authorities including the Deputy Minister of Health Mr Mahmoud Thabit Kombo, the elderly (Wazee) said that they have been facing challenges trying to get medical treatment. Mr Suleiman also said that health insurance for the elderly can help ease acquiring medical treatment.
The Deputy Minister promised to consider the senior people’s requests, and that the first move was to find out the number of the elderly. The Member of Parliament (MP), for Jang’ombe Mr Ali Hassan King responded swiftly by providing medical insurance cards to some of the elderly in his area so that they can access treatment.
The provision of the medical insurance cards to some of the elderly was the implementation of one of the promises the legislator made during the election campaign last October and asked the government to speed up health insurance plan for the elderly.
Despite challenges several challenges still facing the senior citizens, Zanzibar government has been showing great respect to the elderly, mainly establishing care centres for the older people without family care. “We need to end inconveniences in travelling and greeting medical treatment when we go to public hospitals.
This should be done as soon as possible because the medical burden is huge for most of the elderly,” Mzee Suleiman Abdalla said. Mr Abdalla said that the elderly in the villages are facing challenges more compared to their colleagues in urban areas and that medical insurance for them would help the aging people live comfortably.
He said that the government should take up the role because communities are failing to provide for the needs of the elderly. The plight of the elderly is made worse with difficulties in accessing medical care.
According to JUWAZA, although people view the elderly in positive light, some regard them as people waiting to die and abusing them by calling them witches, particularly the women, who are regarded as witches in villages.
The elderly Zanzibaris are 60 years old and above. It is estimated that the number of senior citizens on the islands are more than one-percent of the population, but those under the care of the government, in elderly homes are 136.
Ms Wahida Maabad Mohamed-director of social welfare the elderly at Welezo, and Sebleni on Unguja Island, Makondeni and Limbani homes in Pemba are 36, 35, 57, and eight respectively.
She said reliable health care for the elderly is important, and that the idea of having health insurance and special windows in public hospitals is good. She said that all the elderly at care homes get the health services, but it may be insufficient as some senior citizens need special attention due to their health. “Budget for feeding the elderly varies.
About 5m/- is spent to feed the elderly at Welezo, while 7m/-is spent for the elderly at Sebleni, and 1m/-for the senior citizens living at Limbani because there are few. Ms Salama Kombo Ahmed-Secretary, JUWAZA said the elderly are thankful to the government for the ongoing reforms aiming at making Zanzibar a better place for the elderly, asking other development supporters and members of the public to care for the elderly.
“In the homes, we still have unbalanced diet, and health services provided have not been good,” Ms Ahmed said as she asked members of the community to help ensure the elderly are well cared for.
Ms Ahmed said other challenges facing the elderly includes being neglected, and left without proper care in many homes particularly in rural areas. Authorities in Zanzibar have introduced ‘Elderly Week’ with various activities before the International Older Persons Day (IOPD), marked globally on every October First.
The United Nations (UN), International Day of Older Persons is celebrated annually to recognize the contributions of older persons and to examine issues that affect their lives.