“I hope I can convince the Rotary Club of Kampala that the plight of the elderly is an area begging Rotarians’ support,”
The Director of Non-Communicable Diseases and Healthy Ageing at the African Centre for Global Health and Social Transformation (ACHEST), Dr David Okello, has urged Rotarians to support senior citizens in Uganda.
While being inducted as a member of the Rotary Club of Kampala on June 12, Dr. Okello, expressed concern about the plight of the elderly persons, especially when they retire.
"One of the issues that are of interest to me is the plight of the elderly persons in Uganda. Life expectancy in Uganda is increasing, and we now have a critical mass of older persons as part of our national demographics.
Older persons have played their role in our communities, and have reached a stage where they need to retire and enjoy a dignified healthy life," he said in his speech.
Dr. Okello added; "Unfortunately, the majority of them living in the rural areas are generally neglected and not provided with adequate social services, including health care. Traditional African social systems in many places are in transition and disintegrating."
He acknowledged efforts by the Ugandan government to provide some stipend for senior citizens but noted that this support was limited in scope, as it currently does not cover everyone in need.
"I hope I can convince the Rotary Club of Kampala that the plight of the elderly is an area begging Rotarians' support," he said.
Dr. Okello, a public health physician, recently retired from the World Health Organization (WHO), where he worked for 18 years. Prior to working at WHO, he was a Senior Lecturer at Makerere University Medical School.
During his time working for national institutions, and for WHO, Dr. Okello closely interacted with Rotarians, particularly in the struggle to control polio in Africa.
"Rotary has played a commendable job in advocacy and financing of polio control measures and helping to kick polio out of Africa. Except for a small pocket in northern Nigeria, most of Africa is polio-free; thanks to the tireless efforts of the Rotary community," he said, adding; "I have always admired the Rotary spirit of rendering service for the good of mankind, and especially for disadvantaged and marginalized populations."
Besides his responsibility as Director of the Program on Non-Communicable Diseases and Healthy Ageing, Dr. Okello supports ACHEST to undertake various types of health systems research, to provide information for advocacy, policy advice, and generation of new knowledge on issues affecting health care.
"I strongly believe in the notion of service above self and goodwill. I also have a conviction that a person is a person because of people. This is what is called the "Ubuntu spirit" in southern African countries, where I worked for a long time. I believe Rotary also has this Ubuntu culture," he observed.
To the Rotary fraternity, Dr. Okello is ready to offer his skills as a physician and researcher on health system issues. "I have a wealth of international experience in dealing with governments, bilateral and multilateral institutions, donors, private sector, academia, and civil society organisations.
I also have experience in public health program reviews. If the work of Rotary requires that we undertake some of these activities, I will give it my full attention," he said.