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ASI celebrates 5 years of service to elder persons in Gambia

Jan 29, 2015, 1:03 PM | Article By: Alieu Bobb

Ageing with a Smile Initiative Wednesday celebrated five years of service in The Gambia, at a programme held at the National Malaria Control Programme office in Kanifing.

In his speech, the secretary general of the organization, Balla Musa Joof, said in traditional Gambian society, family members, neighbours and the wider community have always adequately cared for older persons.

“Their contributions have been valued. We are witnessing unprecedented changes in our lives,” he said.

The elderly face an increasing burden of chronic diseases, including diabetes, hypertension, arthritis, cardiovascular problems and failing eyesight, he went on.

“Older people play a vital role in African society today. Across the continent, millions of families would not survive without the contribution of older people, from caring for orphaned grandchildren to providing much-needed household income. Yet older people are often excluded from development programmes and discriminated against by services, such as health care,” he added.

He said ‘Ageing with a Smile Initiative’ (ASI) is a voluntary community-based organization, launched in January 2010, to promote and protect the health and welfare of older persons in The Gambia.

Their vision statement is that the elderly in The Gambia enjoy good health, remain productive and are valued and cared for by society.

The mission statement is that ASI exists to support the elderly in The Gambia to lead healthier and dignified lives.

The aims and objectives of the organisation include to improve access to basic health care services for disadvantaged older persons in The Gambia; to promote the reintegration of the elderly in Gambian social life; to promote intergenerational dialogue and solidarity; and to advocate for the rights of the elderly in the country.

Older persons should have access to health care to help them to maintain or regain the optimum level of physical, mental and emotional well-being and to prevent or delay the onset of illness, he continued.

On programme areas, he said these are the rights of the elderly, advocacy and protection, health promotion and social care, culture and intergenerational dialogue, microfinance programme, school and youth programme and training and capacity strengthening.

“Our volunteers are at work, and we count on your support to follow our volunteers and get inspired,” Joof further stated.

Joof said they educate patients on the prevention and management of non-communicable diseases, particularly hypertension and diabetes.

“We test the visual acuity of the elderly and refer those that need further management. We monitor the blood pressure and blood sugar of the patients. We see patients and advise them on appropriate actions to take. We escort the patients to see the health care providers in the consultation rooms.”

They also dispense medications to patients based on the prescription of the doctor, and listen to the patients in order to understand their needs and help design appropriate interventions.

On what they have achieved, he said screening for NCDs. Since it was launched in January 2010, ASI has conducted up to 20 community-based health screening and consultation programmes, reaching over 6,000 older persons in the Greater Banjul Area and West Coast Region.

The screening programmes focus mainly on non-communicable diseases such as hypertension, diabetes and eye problems, he added.

He disclosed that after five years of health service delivery to older persons in the country, there was now greater recognition and publicity for the essential services ASI provides in the communities.

ASI’s role in promoting the welfare of older persons in The Gambia has been highlighted in two key reports on social protection in the country, such as the Social Protection Mapping of Actors and their Programmes and Social Protection Systems Analysis in The Gambia.

UNICEF commissioned these reports, he said.

Through ASI’s active involvement in promoting social protection in The Gambia, the secretary general of ASI has been elected as the first chairperson of the Coordinating Committee of the Social Protection Platform-The Gambia (SPPG), he said.

Metta Kongira, assistance secretary for ASI, gave the welcome remarks.