MUTARE– Government is developing a National Ageing policy to enhance social service provision as well as strengthen disaster response mechanisms to respond effectively to needs of elderly persons.
Through the Ministry of Labor, Public Service and Social Welfare government has partnered civic society organisations under the banner of National Age Network of Zimbabwe (NANZ) as technical advisors to develop the policy.
Speaking during a Training on Ageing, Social inclusion, Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) and Early Warning Systems chief director in the ministry Clifford Matorera said this will provide a holistic framework to coordinate developing partners and build community resilience in response to disasters.
NANZ in collaboration with Centre for Community Development Solutions (CCDS) and Help Age Zimbabwe organized the training attended by the national Older Person’s board, government officials and civic society organisations.
The Older Persons board will also tour areas affected by Cyclone Idai to assess the impact of the disaster,and gain critical information and experiences on older person issues to identify gaps in DRR.
Matorera said provision of social services to vulnerable groups is a multi-stakeholder discipline which includes critical development partners that mobilise complementary resources through their programming.
He said the impact of Cyclone Idai was severe, in particular older persons, as is the impact of COVID 19 which has not spared the elderly hence the need to transform DRR system to become sensitive to older person needs.
“The diverse nature of older person needs calls for a harmonised approach hence the need to jointly work together as government and private players to create an environment for older person to enjoy their rights.
“We believe that this the workshop is critical in the Ministry’s drive towards development of the National Ageing Policy and it will also enable the board to interact with older persons in Chimanimani and Chipinge Districts.
“As we move towards developing the National Ageing policy we need a good appreciation of ageing in a disaster zone. Our visit to Chimanimani will provide us an opportunity to directly interact with affected older persons in the province,” he said.
“This is an opportunity to share info and experiences relating the ways we can enhance and influence policy making processes to improve the lives of older persons in Zimbabwe.”
Old Person board chair Priscilla Gavi said coordinated complimentary assistance to marginalized groups should be driven by highest ethical, cultural and human rights standards which carters for variegated needs of elderly persons.
Gavi said interventions should be guided by Core Humanitarian Standards (CHS) and principles to effectively plan, implement and evaluate humanitarian response by placing the needs of the affected communities at the centre of activities.
She said principled accountable and quality humanitarian actions are an imperative when dealing with elderly as they require assistance in many spheres including water, sanitation and hygiene, livelihoods, nutrition and health.
“Elderly persons are vulnerable persons who are marginalized in many ways, they have poor mobility, lack resources, poor mental health as a results they are often overlooked in interventions.
“We should ensure that we are upholding the highest ethical standards in dealing with older persons as development partners. We need to reinforce the humanitarian imperative to protect beneficiaries from all forms of exploitation and harm,” she said.
Absolom Masendeke founder chair of NANZ said it s critical to ensure inclusive disaster risk reduction mechanisms that incorporate community participation and harness Indigenous Knowledge Systems.
He called for a proactive stakeholder approach to draft strategic policy guidelines that integrate robust community inclusion and early warning systems in the face of various climate induced disasters including droughts, cyclones and earthquakes.
Masendeke said there was need to create an environment where older persons can express themselves, contribute to DRR to strengthen resilience and capacity of communities to protect their social and economic rights.
“In a multi hazard environment there is need to focus development partners to ensure appropriate responses. Natural disasters like earthquakes, cyclones are on the rise including pandemics, yet we do not know the linkages and what the impact will be when they are combined.
“We need holistic approach and a multi stakeholder inclusive approach. It’s so important to shape our practices approaches because to achieve sustainable development in human life you can’t do away with social inclusion,” he said.
The National Ageing policy will provide a broad framework to strengthening legal and traditional support systems to enhance the welfare of older persons with ethical considerations to ensure respect for older persons.
OP board will spearhead the drafting of the policy to ensure that inclusive planning in developing a policy which promote access to the rights of elderly people through strategic interventions responsive to the variegated needs of older persons.
Government will also seek to enhance cooperation and collaboration between development partners to advance a collective planning and programming that also appreciate the health, social and economic rights of the elderly.