A rchbishop Desmond Tutu once said: “As we get older, our rights do not change. As we get older, we are no less human and should not become invisible.”
Most countries in Africa continue to rank low on the social and economic well-being for older people.
Malawi has few dedicated programmes for older people, with social protection not yet implemented despite the government’s commitment in 2011; and it ranks low in the Global AgeWatch Index 2015 insight report. The report also says that Malawi ranks poorly in providing health care for the elderly.
Kalibu Ministries projects manager Andrew Kavala agreed that issues of aging people are not really given priority in the country.
“There are no geriatric experts in the health centres across the country, yet the health needs of the elderly are different from those of others. The elderly deserve special medical attention. In the same way we have gynaecological experts and pediatric experts in health facilities looking especially at the needs of children and women respectively, we also need geriatric experts,” he says.
As a way of complimenting government efforts in addressing health care services for the elderly, Kalibu Ministries opened a geriatric facility, Kalibu Elderly Clinic in Lirangwe, for the elderly only. It has a full time geriatrics expert from United States of America.
Kalibu Elderly Clinic has come as a solution to health problems affecting people that are 60 years old and above.
With an initial planned coverage of Blantyre district alone, the clinic is handling cases of older people from other districts including Nsanje, Balaka, Neno, Mwanza, Thyolo, Mulanje and Zomba.
Samson Kalembo, the clinical officer at the clinic says: “We welcome every patient from across the country, as long as they are 60 years and above. It is currently just an outpatient clinic as we do not have enough equipment for admissions but soon start admitting patients.”
The geriatric centre was opened in June 2014, with 15 to 30 patients treated for muscle and skeletal pains, arthritis, dementia, neuropathy, hypertension and high blood pressure, among other illnesses.
The few cases that cannot be handled are referred to other health facilities such as Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital.
Emily Daison from Kabwazi Village is one of the elderly people that has patronised the clinic since its inception. She indicates that the health care provided is commendable.
Apart from her getting the medical assistance, she adds that she has an aged mother back home who cannot walk and that officials from the clinic go out to her village to assist her.
With sources available, the projects manager says they could have such facilities in Mzuzu and Lilongwe as well. He however believes that if all government facilities took an interest in geriatrics and had a section, Kalibu Ministries could assist in building capacity for the clinicians in that area.
He calls on government to have inclusive health policies for elderly people, whose figures are currently hovering above 800 000 in the country adding the Kalibu Ministries is moving towards helping the elderly get all the attention they deserve as living beings.
“Just as we have pediatrics experts and care, maternal experts and care we also need to have geriatrics. It is our wish that all referrals in the country would have geriatrics sections. Maybe when we get to that, government will also look at training experts in that area too,” he says. n