Older women and men demand their right to health and care


On the World Health Day today, Older campaigners around Africa join thousands of people from 40 countries on World Health Day to demand their right to health care and support.

Marked annually, the 2018 World Health Day theme “Universal Health Coverage: Everyone, Everywhere” provides an opportune moment for older people to roll back the exclusion of older people in Health Care.

Existing human rights mechanisms fail to adequately protect and promote the rights of older people. To change this, older people in Africa are also calling on governments to attend the UN’s Open-ended Working Group on Ageing in July and enshrine the rights to long-term care and palliative care in international law.

“Article 45 of the Kenyan Constitution for example, states that every person has the right to the highest attainable standard of health, in addition, the government is a signatory of many international instruments that would ensure no one, including no older woman or older man is left behind. We plead with the government to address underlying issues that impede access to health by the older people,” said Mr John Kioko, 80, and an Older activist in Kenya.

Mr Kioko mentions high cost of treatment and medication, rising cost of doctor consultations, medical procedures and drugs as well as inadequate presence of geriatrics as some of challenges that the government should address to assure health to the older persons.

In Kenya as elsewhere in Africa, Older men and women are joining Age Demands Action campaigners across the world. ADA is a platform, organised by HelpAge International, for older people to campaign on the issues that matter to them. Each year, on World Health Day, older people take action to demand their rights to health are recognised.
The Sustainable Development Goals committed to leave no one behind: a commitment to equity, non-discrimination and a rights-based approach to achieving Goal 3 – Ensure healthy lives and promote wellbeing for all at all ages.

In all these countries, campaigners plan to meet policy makers including ministers, organising workshops, and marching on the streets to call on their governments to:
• Support a UN Convention on the Rights of Older People

• Accelerate the ratification and domestication of the African Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Older Persons in Africa
• Accelerate the implementation of the WHO Global Strategy and Action Plan on ageing and health, which provides guidance for rethinking health systems to meet the needs of ageing populations.

• Increase and expand government support to finance health care services and reduce risk of catastrophic health costs for individuals.

• Invest in developing health workforces and build their capacities on older people’s health and tackle widespread ageism in health systems.

• Fully integrate older people’s rights to health into national SDG planning and implementation process and track SDG3 and health outcome indicators across the entire life course in national statistics offices.

Many campaigners are sharing the messages from HelpAge’s new report on older people’s rights to autonomy and independence, long-term care and support, and palliative care, launched to coincide with World Health Day 2018.

Freedom to decide for ourselves brings together the findings from a consultation with 450 older people in 24 countries to find out their perspective on these rights.

It reveals that many older people are unable to access the care and support services they need, and where these are available the cost often makes them affordable to only the wealthiest in the community. Meanwhile, the concept of palliative care is completely new to many older people, and these services are limited or non-existent in all the countries in the consultation.

Rachel Albone, Global Adviser on Health and Care at HelpAge International, said: “Without access to care services, older people must depend on their family and community members for support. This often means older people are not getting the quality of care they need and those caring for them are doing so to the detriment of their own health and wellbeing.

“When it comes to palliative care, older people with life-threatening illnesses are at risk of living with considerable pain and suffering. This need not and must not be the norm.”

Justin Derbyshire, Chief Executive at HelpAge, said: “There are no explicit standards in international human rights law on older people’s rights to autonomy and independence, long term care or palliative care. Without them, these fundamental rights cannot be protected.

“We demand that governments across the world listen to the voices of older people and meet their health rights and other rights. By supporting a UN convention on older people’s rights, nations can ensure their citizens have the best quality of life and wellbeing in older age as possible.”

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