Key note speaker, Dr. Matthew Timbo, the Minister of Labour and Social Security, said the formulation of a National Policy for the Aged is important because as there has never in the history of Sierra Leone been a legal framework that specifically looks at the needs of this vulnerable group.
He said “the aged have worked relentlessly and invaluably in building the political, economic and social fabric of Sierra Leone yet many are faced with health, social, and economic challenges in their respective communities.”
To help old people in Sierra Leone live a dignified life, Dr. Timbo highlighted that, in 2002 the Ministry of Labour and Social Security initiated and implemented the Social Protection Act, which gave birth to the National Social Security and Insurance Trust (NASSIT), a scheme which makes provision for old people to benefit from a pension service after retirement.
The Ministry also established the National Social Safety Net in 2004, which aimed to address all forms of vulnerable groups with priority on the aged. “The National Social Safety Net has been implementing cash transfer to the vulnerable aged from 2004 to date. So far a little over 20 thousand vulnerable persons have benefited from the program.”
He said “addressing the challenges and problems of the aged in the country was crucial to the future development of Sierra Leone, noting that: “According to the United Nation World Population Prospect revised in 2015, 82% of 233 countries are experiencing an increase in the proportion of older persons between 1980 and 2015 and 99% of these countries are expected to see a proportionate increase of the age 60 years and above between 2015 and 2050.”
This according to Dr. Timbo means that Sierra Leone and other African countries, which have a youthful population at present is expected to be outnumbered by older people by 2050. “The question is, how prepared are we to address the problem of the aging in Sierra Leone?”
Meanwhile, he said, the Ministry of Labour and Social Security has decided to hire a consultant, Glynnis Cummings-John, Help Age International’s Technical Inclusion Advisor in Sierra Leone, to ensure the formulation of the National Ageing Policy, which will address present and future challenges that old people are faced with in the country.
Francis Kabia, Director of Social Welfare at the Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender and Children Affairs, noted that discussions to improve the lives of the aged in the country were considered “a forgotten reality” in the country.
Even though older people are considered to be custodians of knowledge in their communities because of their experience, he said, it was rather unfortunate that communities despise older people instead of embracing them. “I have observed that resource allocation for service provision for older people in Sierra Leone is nothing to write home about,” Kabia said.
Furthermore, he explained that there were no laws that protect the rights of the aged in the country; therefore he recommended that the Policy should make provisions for the protection of the rights of the aged.