SENIOR citizens in Zanzibar have started receiving special identification cards that will enable them to be given priority in accessing health, transport, and other services.
This move has sparked praise to Union President Samia Suluhu Hassan and Zanzibar’s Dr Hussein Mwinyi for their determination to improve care for the elders.
HelpAge International Country Director, Mr Smart Daniel and the World Health Organisation (WHO)’s Dr Zabulon Yoti commended both leaders for continuing to initiate a better living environment for all senior citizens, and the development partners will continue to back the programmes.
Mr Daniel informed the gathering here that Zanzibar is now a role model after being the first country in the region to establish the Universal Pension Scheme.
“With the growing numbers of elders, we need to get prepared and ensure their living environment and condition is good,” he said.
The overall umbrella theme for the United Nations International Day of Older Persons in 2022 is “Resilience of Older Persons in a Changing World,” in successfully navigating today’s myriad of global challenges.
On his side, Dr Yoti said that life expectancy at the global level is 64 age and Tanzania is almost there with 56 years now, up from below 50 in the past decade, thanks to ongoing efforts by both Zanzibar and the Union government with support from HelpAge International, UNICEF, and WHO and other stakeholders in improving the standard of living and the economy in general.
“We also recognise Zanzibar for its efforts in battling, suppressing and eradicating maternal and newborn mortality, HIV, Tuberculosis and Malaria. Well-done Zanzibar as it gives hope to the senior citizens in guaranteeing their health,” Dr Yoti said.
However, he warned that Covid-19 is still a threat, insisting that people must take precautions and vaccination.
Zanzibar Second Vice-President Mr Hemed Suleiman Abdulla, who was the guest of honor on behalf of President Mwinyi, said in his speech that the Zanzibar government has since the 1964 revolution and independence, been giving elders priority they deserve.
He said 66 elders are currently at the care homes at Welezo (37), Sebleni (20) and in Pemba Limbani (nine), where the wazee are provided with basic needs.
He said as of the 2012 Population Census, Zanzibar had 1.3 million people of which 4.4 per cent of its population are elders. The population is projected to increase after the 2022 census that was conducted on August 23rd this year.
The Vice-President said the ‘Zanzibar Universal Pension Scheme (ZUPS)’ which guarantees the old people monthly payment was a clear example that the government is fully committed to care for the elderly.
“The scheme is being developed to link with an e-government network, accommodating fingerprints, so that we take the advantage of digitalisation in registration and control from cheating. Thanks to UNICEF and HelpAge for the support,” Mr Abdulla said.
He said that the Zanzibar Visions 2050, MKUZA, and ruling party CCM election manifesto also promote better living conditions for the elders.
He urged people to love their elderly parents and live together instead of abandoning them or taking them to care homes. The Second Vice-President also urged the social welfare department to establish wazee councils in all Shehias.
The Minister for Social Welfare Development, Elders, Gender, and Children Ms Riziki Pembe Juma thanked all the organisers of the event, saying senior citizens should expect better life in future as promised by Dr Mwinyi, urging all people to respect the senior citizens.
Ms Shafika Ahmed, on behalf of other wazee, said despite the great efforts from the government, the elderly still faces challenges that hinder them in achieving their goals, such as the current money for the universal pensions is still little, and health some services were still poor, while access to banks also remains a challenge.