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Interview with ASI Secretary General

Jun 5, 2012, 1:04 PM | Article By: Isatou Senghore

Hello and a warm welcome to yet another edition of Health Matters (HM), your health column that focuses on bringing you all the latest news and updates on health related issues in The Gambia and beyond.

In today’s edition, we bring you an interview with Mr Bala Musa Joof, Secretary General of the Ageing With a Smile (ASI) organization. ASI seeks to improve the health and general welfare of elderly people in The Gambia.

HM - How long have you been working with ASI?

SG - I started working with ASI in 2009, when the original concept was discussed. ASI is a registered community-based organisation which was launched in January 2010 by the former Minister of Health & Social Welfare, Dr Abubacarr Gaye.

HM - What are the common problems that elderly people face?

SG - Poor vision, musculoskeletal problems, hypertension, diabetes, hearing problems, dental problems, malnutrition and loneliness.

HM - What are the aims and objectives of ASI?

SG - To improve access to basic health care services for disadvantaged older persons in The Gambia, to promote the re-integration of the elderly in Gambian social life, to promote inter-generational dialogue and solidarity, and to advocate for the rights of the elderly in the country.

We want the elderly in The Gambia to enjoy good health, remain productive and to be valued and cared for by society.

ASI is guided by the following values and principles:

1.  Respect the dignity of the elderly and protect and promote their fundamental human rights.

2.  Non-discrimination towards the elderly in the implementation of our programmes - in terms of gender, religion, ethnicity or other variables.

3.  Implement programmes and activities that are locally relevant, appropriate and responsive to the needs of the elderly.

4.  Initiate and support programmes and services that are effective, evidenced-based and sustainable.

5.  Provide information to the elderly and the wider public that is correct and up-to-date.

6.  Involve the elderly in the design, implementation and evaluation of our programmes.

7.  We value the input and participation of community members and other stakeholders to promote the welfare of the elderly.

8. Our partnerships with other organizations will be based on a shared vision and values.

HM - What was the pilot phase from January 2010 to December 2011?

SG - ASI is a committed organisation and its interventions were piloted in the greater Banjul from January 2010 to December 2011. The provision of home-based care for older persons living Focused on the following interventions:

• The provision of free community-based screening and consultations for those with chronic health conditions;

• Promotion of intergenerational dialogue and opportunities for older persons to meet and socialise with their peers;

• Advocacy and the creation of awareness on the situation of the elderly in The Gambia.

The pilot phase successfully conducted seven screening programmes, reaching over 600 older persons in the following 5 locations in the Greater Banjul Area:

• Kanifing,  at the Gambia Red Cross Society Headquarters

• Fajikunda (2 times, May 2010 and July 2010) at the Fajikunda Red Cross Society/ Community Centre

• Sukuta Health Centre (Oct 2010 and July 2011)

• Old Jeshwang Health Centre (Dec 2010)

• Leman Street Clinic (April 2011)

HM - How many workers do you have?

SG - We have about 36 registered members. Volunteers support the work of ASI by providing valuable professional services. These include medical doctors, nurses, eye health workers and journalists.

HM - How can someone become a member of ASI?

SG - Membership is open to everyone. You must have an interest in supporting the elderly with respect, and is also important to have compassion to protect and promote the dignity of the elderly in The Gambia.