The minister for Gender, Children, Disability and Social Welfare Jean Kalilani on Saturday launched the National Policy for Older Persons and the Study Report on Feasibility of Universal Old Age Pension in Malawi during the 2016 International Day for Older Persons commemoration which was held at Mponela II Primary School Ground in Dowa.
Speaking during the launch, Kalilani said the 2016 commemoration was exciting and historic because of the two launches.
The Policy’s objectives are, to promote and protect rights of older people, promote household food security and nutrition, intergenerational transfer of knowledge, and promote research, education and training on ageing issues increase access to shelter, lobby for an increase in access to health and sanitation, and encourage families and communities to take a leading role in caring for the elderly.
The feasibility study which aimed at addressing the challenges faced by older persons in in the country revealed that a universal pension scheme in Malawi is possible and could transform lives of elderly people.
The International Day for Older Persons commemoration was under the theme “Take a Stand Against Ageism”. The theme calls upon all members of the society to end all forms of discrimination and violence against older persons at all the levels.
“Ageism is unfair treatment of people because they are considered too old. Unfair treatment of older people is a common practice among all the population groups of the world. It is a prejudice that requires constant attention to promote the welfare and wellbeing of older persons in our societies and communities,” Kalilani said.
She added that the day gives the nation an opportunity to reflect, plan, act and promote the rights and well-being of older persons. The minister then urged communities to appreciate the contributions that older persons have made and continue making to the country. She further stated that everyone will get old one day and therefore need to take care of the elderly.
Kalilani further stated that the composition of the world population has changed in recent decades. She said that between 1950 and 2010 life expectancy worldwide rose from 46 to 68 years, and it is projected to increase to 81 years by the end of the century. The minister then said similar demographic events are happening in Malawi.
In her remarks, Help Age Regional Programmes Director Elizabeth Hughes-Chulu commended the government for being one of the few governments in Africa to launch an Elderly Policy and re-assured the nation that the organisation will continue to work with the government to promote the welfare of older people in Malawi.
Although government has made strides to improve the welfare of the elderly in Malawi through the social cash Transfer Project, there still is a lot of work to be done for the older persons. Most of them consistently experience difficulties to access services such as medical, extension, credit and loans, transport, leadership, agriculture, civic education, and information among others.
The United Nations designated 1st October as the international day for older persons in December 1990.