THE elderly in Zanzibar last Saturday begun to mark the UN Day for Older Persons with prayers for peace. The prayers were followed by checking their health status and receiving treatment in various places in rural and urban areas.
The timetable for the celebrations also included a quarter kilometre walk from Amani to Seblen. Urban-West Regional Commissioner will receive the participants. The three-week events also included a symposium which draw all social protection stakeholders.
A free mobile line for the elderly will be launched. According to the Social Protection Officer in the Ministry of the Labour, Empowerment, Elderly, Youth, Women and Children, Abdalla Saleh Omar, the symposium participants will discuss and propose better ways of improving care for the elderly.
“Our programme to mark the Day of the Elderly will include visits to historical sites and other interesting places,” he said. He said Second Vice-President Seif Ali Iddi will grace the climax of the event at Chwaka. “We are determined to improve the lives of our senior citizens,” Omar said.
This year’s celebrations is organized by the government in collaboration with two associations of the elderly: Jumuia ya Wazee na Askari Wastaafu Zanzibar (JUWAZA-1) and Jumuia ya Wazee Zanzibar (JUWAZA-20.
Older persons have praised the government for taking deliberate measures to improve their lives. “We have been receiving universal pension since April last year. We now expect government assurance in health care and free transport.
Things have moved faster than we expected,” 73-year-old Khatib Abdalla said. The senior citizens have appealed to government to legalize all the benefits they are entitled to. Some people say the 20,000/-payment of universal pension is too little because of escalating cost of living.
The Ministry of Finance started paying the monthly universal pension last year to 27, 000 older persons through established payment centres. UN organizations such as the International Labour Organization and the World Health Organization (WHO) have commended the government improving care of the elderly.
Finance minister Dr Khalid Salum Mohamed says Zanzibar has become a model on payment of universal pension. “Many countries have been coming to Zanzibar to study how we started the programme and challenges we are facing to sustain it.
So far, we are happy as we think of reforms to improve it,” he said. Zanzibar started observing the International Day of the Elderly 15 years ago. Organizers of the event aim at mobilising all the 27, 000 senior citizens to take part in all paces of Unguja and Pemba.
Ms Ghanima Othman from the JUWAZA-2 said that attending the planned event is of paramount importance. She appealed to the media to use the Day as a chance to raise awareness on its importance.
During a meeting with the elderly, Deputy Minister for Labour, Empowerment, Elderly, Youth, Women and Children Ms Shadya Mohamed Suleiman said such people need love, care, and protection. She said care for the elderly should start at the family level instead of depending on government care centres.
“It is sad that some people abandon their aging parents or force them out of family care,” she said.
The UN International Day of Older Persons is celebrated annually on October 1 to recognize the contributions of older persons and to examine issues that affect their lives. In many countries, politicians make speeches, particularly those responsible for government departments that focus on the welfare of senior citizens.
On December 14, 1990, the UN General Assembly made October 1 as the International Day of Older Persons following such initiatives such as the Vienna International Plan of Action on Ageing, which was adopted by the 1982 World Assembly on Ageing and endorsed later that year by the assembly.