By Pornsak Khortwong, IFRC
Recent data by the United Nations Statistics Division indicates that over 22,000 people above 64 years old are still actively working past the regulated age in Cambodia . While this in itself may not present a large problem, this population is also living with little to no support from their family members, especially those in rural areas, where the younger generation have taken to move to urban areas or abroad for better working opportunities. As a result, many of Cambodia’s senior citizens are confronting various issues such as being overworked, poor health, isolation and poverty.
Recognising these challenges, the Cambodian Red Cross, in partnership with Pfizer Inc and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), established a Healthy Ageing Programme, designed to help improve the lives of elderly people in rural communities by promoting the importance of health and education on non-communicable diseases.
“This is a good time to implement this intervention in Cambodia because we can apply and tailor the knowledge and skills that best support senior family members,” said Madame Pum Chantinie, Secretary General of the Cambodian Red Cross. “It also prepares our volunteers to better care for vulnerable people, and organise public awareness campaigns in the provincial and sub-district Red Cross branches and communities.”
The national society is the third in the world to show commitment in implementing the Community Based Health Ageing Programme after Montenegro and India.
The Cambodia Red Cross carries out an auxiliary role to the local government and the country’s ministry of health in promoting this programme, which also contributes to the World Health Organisation’s Global strategy and action plan on ageing and health.
A three-day training to develop trainers on the Healthy Ageing Programme was recently conducted in Phnom Penh, bringing together 36 participants from 25 of Cambodia’s provinces. 87 Community Red Cross volunteers were trained to support the programme, after which they will conduct 18 community outreach health screenings, education sessions on general health, how to prevent non-communicable diseases, meditation and other health promotions in targeted communities.
“I am now 68 years old. I will use what I have learned from the Red Cross to educate other elderly citizens in my village to have a healthier life and how to live longer,” said Nom Teath, a Red Cross volunteer in Kampot, southeast Cambodia.
This outreach project will be implemented in three provinces, Prey Veng, Svay Rieng and Kampot, targeting 500 elderly citizens. Around 3,000 booklets on healthy ageing will be produced and distributed to 25 Red Cross branches and communities.