Dar es Salaam, 15 April: The first government funded universal pension in East Africa is to be launched in Zanzibar this Friday (15 April).
Older men and women over the age of 70 will receive a monthly non-contributory pension of Tsh 20,000 ($9), pegged to the cost of an essential basket of goods.
"The universal pension in Zanzibar is welcome news for East Africa," said Amleset Tewodros, Country Director, HelpAge International Tanzania.
"It will help to reduce poverty and inequality among older people on the island, providing a small but stable income for many who are extremely poor."
"This pension income will go a long way to improving the health of older people once the free health care policy is fully and effectively implemented," added Tewodros.
There are around 60,000 people aged 60 and over in Zanzibar today compared with 48,573 in 2005, with many responsible for grandchildren, including orphans.
Welcoming the decision to launch the scheme, Mama Ghanima Othman Juma, 67, said the pension would reduce the suffering of older people.
"Many of us do not have any meaningful source of income and the pension will help us with our day to day needs, including food and transport to health centres," she said.
She urged the government to consider lowering the pension age to 60 and called on it to ensure that free healthcare is effectively implemented and older people are given priority.
Findings show that the majority of older people have never been in the formal labour market and therefore do not receive a pension from the Zanzibar Social Security Fund. They did not have any other source of income despite facing a range of health and disability challenges.
Although the Zanzibar health policy states that older people should receive free healthcare, this policy has not been effectively implemented and older people are required to pay fees when they attend a clinic or hospital.
"In order to study the impact of the pension on older people and their families, HelpAge International and the Economic and Social Research Foundation of Tanzania (ESRF) are currently undertaking a baseline survey of pension recipients," said Tewodros.
Dr Prafulla Mishra, Regional Director of HelpAge International said: "The introduction of a universal pension in Zanzibar is a welcome step towards building a social protection floor in the country, in line with the International Labour Organization's Recommendation 202. We are hopeful this will create an opportunity for other governments in the region to learn from and emulate."
Henry Mazunda, Communications Officer, HelpAge International Tanzania
Tel: +255 22 2774 796
Mob: +255 685 277 812, +255 743 573 696
Sarah Gillam, Media Relations Manager, HelpAge International, London
Tel: +44 (0) 20 7148 7623
Mobile: + 44 (0) 7713 567 624
About HelpAge International
HelpAge International helps older people claim their rights, challenge discrimination and overcome poverty, so that they can lead dignified, secure, active and healthy lives. Our work is strengthened through our global network of like-minded organisations - the only one of its kind in the world.
 Zanzibar Universal Pension Scheme, The Standard Operating Procedures Manual, Ministry of Empowerment, Social Welfare, Youth, Women and Children Department of Social Welfare, Government of Zanzibar