APPLYING the principle of universal social protection is a duty of governments across the world.
According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, social protection is a basic human right.
The International Labour Organisation (ILO) defines universal social protection as an integrated set of policies designed to ensure income security and support to all– paying particular attention to the poor and the vulnerable.
For older persons, who also have a right to a decent living, it is about providing income security and the means to access basic necessities.
Ministry of Community Development and Social Services principal community development officer Stephen Chiwele addressed the issue of income protection for older persons at the recently commemorated 2018 Social Protection Week in Lusaka.
Zambia’s National Policy on Ageing defines an older person as one aged 60 years or older and the country’s current retirement threshold is 65 years.
There are a number of challenges facing the elderly in Zambia which include social exclusion.
Some suffer from isolation due to stigma. In some rural communities, elderly people are suspected of practising witchcraft and poverty is also highly pronounced among them.
“The current pension schemes in Zambia are contributory in nature, meaning most of the people in the informal sector are without pension cover and many of these are older persons,” Mr Chiwele shared.
Due to loss of work and income in old age, households with old people are among the poorest in the country.
As a response to the issue of ageing, the Zambian government is a signatory to international treaties such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing.
The Ministry of Community Development and Social Services also leads the commemoration of the International Day of Older Persons which falls annually on October 1.
The National Policy on Ageing provides guidance on the implementation of programmes to assist older persons and the ministry presently runs two old age homes in the country.
The ministry is also in the process of developing minimum standards for establishing and running old people’s homes.
“Our position as a ministry is that elderly people continue to live with their families and within their communities. Being institutionalised should come as a last resort,” Mr Chiwele shared.
Under the Seventh National Development Plan (7NDP), the Ministry of Community Development and Social Services falls under the poverty and vulnerability pillar.
The ministry runs social safety nets like the Social Cash Transfer Scheme targeting the vulnerable in communities.