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Age Demands Action on Health in Gaza: Improving healthcare for older people

28 May 2014

Older people have their eyes tested as part of ADA on Health in Gaza. (c) HelpAge InternationalIt's two years since we got a group of great activists together and first took part in the Age Demands Action on Health campaign in the occupied Palestinian territories.

Two years of hard work later and we're extremely happy to see real change happening for older people.

More than one fifth of the older people in the occupied Palestinian territories are living below the poverty line and 70% of older people suffer from at least one chronic disease, for example diabetes or high blood pressure.

Many older people suffer from poor health because they can't afford to pay for more advanced diagnosis or purchase the medication they need.

Action is needed

This is why action is needed. Our Age Demands Action on Health campaign this year, which took place on 7 April - World Health Day, called for a change in policies so that health services are age-friendly services, active and healthy ageing is promoted and the rights of older people respected.

This year, as always, older people were at the centre of our Age Demands Action campaign. Mr Shehada, our campaign leader in Gaza, met Dr Yousef Abu Alreish, the manager of the general directorate for hospitals to discuss the services provided for older people in hospitals. As a result of the discussions, Dr Yousef pledged to send a formal letter to all hospitals asking them to include older people in a list of priority groups for surgery and waiting lists.

Older campaigners in Gaza also met the Director of Quality Improvement at the Ministry of Health, Dr Mousa Elemawy. They called on the ministry's systems to be more age-friendly and got positive feedback that the ministry will improve health centres by adding ramps, elevators and age-friendly bathrooms.

Health guidelines for older people

The first ever primary geriatric guidelines in the Middle East have been published in Gaza with the Ministry of Health. A training plan has been agreed with the Ministry to use these guidelines to train all health providers throughout 2014. Thanks to our work with the Ministry, there are now 15,700 older people in Gaza who have benefited from free health insurance. 11,400 older people have also benefited from free health insurance through a special programme with the Ministry of Social Affairs.

In April, Mr Shehada also met Omar Alderbi, the Assistant Deputy Ministry of Social Affairs. As a result, Mr Alderbi committed to providing older people with assistive devices through formal medical referral to the Ministry of Health.

At the national level, older people are calling for better access to primary healthcare, to be included in national health strategies and to have a say in developing the health policies and practice that affect them.

Community initiatives

As part of the campaign, the Palestinian Red Crescent offered a discount up to 50% on the health services for all older people in the Gaza Strip. The Palestinian Medical Relief Society now plays an active role in Age Demands Action by joining our affiliate the Palestinian Center for Communication and Development Strategies in the West Bank and implementing free medical days for older people.

Next year we will keep using the opportunity of World Health Day, 7 April to draw attention to a subject of major importance: universal health coverage for older people.

Find out more about our Age Demands Action on Health campaign.

Your comments

Baraa Salih Shbair

Great efforts for the elderly

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Author profile

Nader Alfarra
Country: Occupied Palestinian territories
Job title: Campaigns and Communication Coordinator

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These blogs are personal reflections and do not necessarily reflect the views of HelpAge International.