The Federal Government Admits That There Are Gaps In The Provision of Health And Social Needs For The Elderly

 

The Nigerian Federal Government admits that although the number of Nigerians aged 60 years and above stand at 14.8 million, there is also an increasing gap in the provision of both the health and social needs of elderly individuals, both at the national and subnational levels.

The Minister for Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Hadiza Sadiya Umar-Farouq, whilst speaking at the opening of a two-day national stakeholders workshop on the integrated care of elderly individuals with the theme: “Realigning and Strengthening Institutional Capacity for Delivery of Integrated Care for Older Persons,” she noted that: “There are currently over 14.8 million Nigerians, who are 60 years and above according to data from the National Bureau of Statistics (NLSS 2018-2019 NBS), with the rapidly increasing proportion and absolute numbers of older persons in Nigeria, despite the country’s youthful population, there are increasing gaps in the provision of health and social needs of older persons, both at the national and subnational levels.”

She explained that the signing of the National Senior Citizens bill into law, along with the approval of the National Policy on Ageing as well as the inauguration of the board of the National Senior Citizens Centre by the president had laid down the legal and institutional frameworks to improve the effective delivery of health and social care for the elderly. Minister Umar-Farouq, who was being represented by the Special Adviser to the President on Humanitarian Affairs, Alhaji Musa Bungudu, stated that the primary aim of the two-day national workshop was to properly assess the status of inclusion of elderly individuals who are in primary care services and to consider and strategize several ways of realigning and strengthening institutional capacities to deliver integrated care for the elderly. She stated she was quite optimistic that the outcome from what appears to be very stimulating technical deliberations, will usher in a new dawn in accessible, appropriate primary health care for elderly individuals.

The National Senior Citizens Centre bemoaned that the lack of understanding of ageing issues amongst the relevant Ministries, Department and Agencies of government while speaking on the workshop that it had organised with the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), and the World Health Organisation (WHO). Dr. Emem Omokaro, the Director General of the Centre, had also lamented that the elderly, their family members and their communities lacked adequate knowledge of ageing issues. She stated that this has further compounded the challenges that senior citizens faced in the country.

Dr. Omokaro, whom had identified some of the challenges to include poverty, poor health, lack of access to food, shelter, water and sanitation among others, had mentioned that approximately 70 percent of the total population of elderly individuals in the country who are in rural communities were those who had been mostly affected by these challenges. She explained that the poor understanding has affected the inclusiveness of older persons in development and social services plans.

“There are 14.8 million older persons living in Nigeria. 70 percent of them residing in rural areas. They have particular challenges , COVID-19 exposed these vulnerabilities and the fragility of existing systems older people are disproportionately impacted by the burden of poverty, poor health, disability, social isolation and exclusion , violence, lack of access to basic resources like food, shelter , water and sanitation among others. Such burdens are compounded when they follow a life course of poverty. The bedrock of these challenges is the poor understanding of ageing issues across the relevant sectors (MDAs) that have mandates concerning older persons as well as amongst the older persons themselves, their family members and their communities. This gap hinders age-centered service delivery and inclusiveness of older persons in development and social services plans.”

The primary objectives of the workshop are: to strengthen synergies for delivering care for the older persons; to secure commitment and support from Executive Secretaries/Chairmen/Permanent Secretary of State Primary Health Boards/Agencies for the establishment of Units for the care of older persons; to strategize on strengthening institutional capacity for care of Older Persons within the PHC system by leveraging on existing interventions (WDC, CHIPS, Volunteers, NEMCHIC/SEMCHICs, among others.

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