Date: Friday, 29 March 2019
This photo is one that everyone is familiar with, in every community there is such a one. It was therefore because of this that WHO in collaboration with MOH held an advocacy meeting on ageing and health from 26 to 28 March 2019 at Orotta Conference Hall.
The meeting was officially opened by Dr Andebrhan Tesfatsion, the Director General of Public Health Services. He said that in Eritrea, it is difficult to provide detailed analysis about the socio-economic and health conditions of older persons because studies have not been conducted. These studies looked at healthy ageing, defined as optimizing opportunities for physical, social and mental health to enable older people to take an active part in society without discrimination and to enjoy an independent and good quality of life. However, Eritrean population and Health survey 2010 report indicated that the older population age 65 and above account for about seven percent of the total population.
Dr Tesfatsion reiterated, 'Eritrean elderly are treated with respect and love as ageing is not necessarily a burden.' In time of need, they get strong support from their family and community, Dr Tesfatsion revealed and mentioned the following points as key challenges for healthy ageing in Eritrea: health systems are not prepared to respond to the needs of older people, social support for the elderly is inadequate, inadequate nutrition and food security problems for the elderly, and inadequate health information systems to capture relevant indicators on ageing. In addition, he said that interventions that are integrated in the primary health care system for providing long-term care on healthy ageing in a sustainable and equitable approach is very important.
WHO representative to Eritrea, Dr Josephine Namboze said that in the African region, population of older people currently at 46 million is expected to reach 67 million and 163 million by 2050, representing 9.8% of the population. She reiterated that WHO's commitment to support Eritrea to institute the healthy and active ageing program. In addition, Dr Namboze identified recommendations and opportunities for Eritrea in defining the essential health care packages having the elderly as a key unit. She expressed the need to have multi sectorial operation plan, public awareness and engagement and institute a national coordination mechanism for a comprehensive approach to this challenge.
Speaking at the event, Dr Berhana Haile, Director of Reproductive Health said that integration of health ageing in all policies and at all levels of the government is crucial. 'Older people maintain the continuity of tradition and culture of the society through life long accumulated knowledge and experience.' She added. She also said that they can also contribute a lot in the development of the country.
Dr Nancy Kidula, Medical Officer, MCH/IST/ESA emphasized that Eritrea like all other African countries is having the proportion of older people increasing. However, this group had previously not been a focus of interventions or investments by health and other sectors. She said that like all other people the elderly need to have quality health services without fear of financial catastrophe. , Dr Kidula underscored that they are also have institutional memory on all the best practices that need to be transferred to the coming generation. It is time now to invest in healthy and active ageing as well as age friendly services, environment; especially as we approach the UN Decade for health ageing that will start in 2020.
During the event, Mr Solomon Kelifa, healthy Ageing focal person presented the national ICOPE guideline draft content. In his presentation, he stated that the draft guideline contains declining physical and mental capacity geriatric syndromes, care providers support and simplified Eritrea PEN. The draft guideline was adopted from the generic WHO ICOPE guideline through mixed skilled professionals from ministry of health experts from national referral hospitals and UN Agencies.
Participants were drawn from Ministry of Health, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Information, Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare, Ministry of Transport and Communication, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Local Government and UN Agencies.
The major agreement across all sectors was the need to plan and implement comprehensive multi-sectorial public health response aiming at addressing the challenges and needs of the ageing people. This in turn, can contribute to build a nation in which everyone can live a long, health and productive life.