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27.09.2004 General News

Policy on Aged in the offing - President Kufuor

By GNA

Accra, Sept. 27. GNA - A Draft Policy on Ageing, which would set the tone for meeting the needs and solving the problems of the aged adequately, is currently before Cabinet, President John Agyekum Kufuor announced on Monday.

In a speech read on his behalf by Mr Eddy Akita, Minister of State in Charge of Fisheries, President Kufuor said his Government was working hard to ensure that the draft policy was approved and sent to Parliament latest by December.

Mr Akita read the speech at the opening of a four-day Helpage International Africa Regional Workshop, which is being attended by about 30 representatives of aged organisations from 15 countries, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Britain's Department For International Development (DFID), United Nations Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA), United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), Africa Union and World Health Organisation (WHO).

The workshop is a bi-annual forum, designed to discuss issues affecting old people in member countries of Helpage International in Africa.

President Kufuor said one thing that had consistently come up in discussions with Helpage International member and partner organisations and the aged themselves was the connection between their plight and the absence of policies and legislation that addressed their issues.

He said the policy on ageing was just the beginning of many good things lined up for the aged in the country, adding that there was a lot that the Government was working on to create an environment, through which the public, the private sector and other stakeholders would be positioned to provide more for older people in Ghana.

"The National Health Insurance Scheme, which has provided for older people, 70 years and above to be exempted from the payment of the minimum premium of 72,000 cedis is just one of the measures to address the needs of the aged in Ghana," President Kufuor said.

President Kufuor noted that the break down of the extended family system in Africa had exploded the myth that older people would be looked after by their children or relatives, adding that, regrettably government, development agencies and donors also marginalized older people.

He observed that particularly in Africa, "older people are among the poorest in every society, they are often abandoned, isolated abused and subjugated by those members of society and institutions upon which they must depend".

President Kufuor said Mali, Uganda, Kenya, and Zimbabwe were among some African countries that had made some effort and continue to seek ways to improve the living conditions of the aged.

He praised Helpage Ghana for its efforts at creating awareness on issues facing older people in society and also for engaging in various programmes that sought to improve the lives of older people.

Helpage Ghana currently operates through 15 non-governmental organisations based in six regions in the country, taking care of 6,200 aged people in 20 communities.

The President Kufuor noted that the population of older people was growing faster than the rest of the population at a rate of 2 per cent per year worldwide, but would jump to a growth of 2.5 per cent between 2025 and 2030.

"In 1950 the population of those aged 60 years was 200 million, representing eight per cent of the total world population, increasing by 75 per cent to 350 million, and shooting to 630 million in 2002, which was 10 per cent of world population, (UN Population division, 1999,2002)," President Kufuor said.

He said the projections were that older people would number 1.2 billion in 2025 and two billion in 2050, representing 21 per cent of the world total.

President Kufuor said developing countries were expected to experience the biggest of the increases and that the growth in the number of the older population inevitably meant an increase in the range and intensity of their problems and needs.

The development of national policies on aging was, therefore, critical in ensuring that the needs and problems of the aged were adequately addressed in the face of the expected increases.

Professor Nana Araba Apt, President of Helpage Ghana, expressed the hope that the Government would uphold its promise and ensure that come December this year, the policy on ageing would be placed before Parliament, saying: "A promise is a promise."

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