Sharjah has taken yet another historic step on the path of becoming the first Arab city to join the WHO Global Network of Age Friendly Cities. Following the approval by His Highness Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed bin Sultan Al Qasimi, Crown Prince and Deputy Ruler of Sharjah and Chairman of Sharjah Executive Council, of the Strategic Plan 2017-2020 proposed by the High Follow-Up Committee for Sharjah’s Membership in the Age-Friendly Cities Global Network, the Committee held its inaugural session on Thursday (May 18) to brief and prepare all government entities and departments in the emirate for the responsibilities ahead.
The introductory session of the Committee, held at the Sharjah Chamber of Commerce and Industry, was presided over by HE Sheikh Salem bin Abdulrahman Al Qasimi, Chairman of the Sharjah Ruler's Office, who also heads the Committee, and was attended by heads of various Sharjah government entities and coordinators of the committee.
Speaking on the occasion, Sheikh Salem bin Abdulrahman Al Qasimi hailed the tremendous response to the initiative and presence of Sharjah’s various government entities and departments in the opening session, which demonstrates the success of the strategic plan to make Sharjah a leading example of age-friendly cities in the region.
He emphasised that to facilitate communication and accelerate the implementation of the initiative, each government department has nominated a coordinator to work with the high committee and follow up on the implementation of all initiatives within the plan.
Presenting an overview and goals of the WHO Global Network of Age-Friendly Cities, Ahmad Al Meil, Media Director at Sharjah Social Services Department, explained the various bold steps and measures taken by Sharjah as part of its preparations to join the network.
Khamis Bashir, Head of Statistics at Sharjah Department of Statistics and Community Development, talked about the initial evaluation process and Sharjah’s achievement of meeting all the criteria and standards of joining the WHO Network of Age-friendly Cities.
Afaf Al Marri, Director of Sharjah Social Services Department spoke about the strategic plan and steps that have been put in place for transforming Sharjah into an ‘age friendly’ city.
Addressing the session through a video link, Dr John Beard, Director of the Department of Ageing and Life Course at WHO, explained the whole concept of ‘age-friendly cities’ and why investing in old people is important. He lauded and congratulated Sharjah on becoming the first Arab city to join the WHO network in a remarkably short period of time.
Dr Ala Alwan, Regional Director of WHO for the Eastern Mediterranean, discussed the need for modern cities to have a comprehensive strategy for aging population and health, as he complimented Sharjah on joining the network.
Sharjah is the first Arab city among 414 major cities from around the world and one of the two Middle Eastern cities – the other one being Tehran – to join the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Global Network of Age-Friendly Cities and Communities.
In January this year, His Highness Dr Sheikh Sultan Bin Mohamed Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, issued an administrative decree (No. 2 of 2017) heralding the Emirate’s elaborate preparations to join the Global Network for Age-Friendly Cities and Communities.
However, the efforts by the Emirate’s authorities on this front have been going on for years, in order to turn Sharjah into a city that cares for and is friendly to all age groups in general and the elderly and infirm in particular. This envisages creating world-class infrastructure, utilities and social services that take care of the needs and concerns of the elderly.
Best City for the Elderly
The administrative decree issued by HH the Ruler of Sharjah underlines the importance of environment in determining healthy ageing and encouraging the creation of age-friendly environment in the Emirate. It aims to create a physical, healthy, social, economic and culturally sustainable environment in Sharjah, making the Emirate the best place for the elderly people to be and enjoy a quality life.
It was in 2006 that the World Health Organization (WHO) developed the criteria for Age-Friendly Cities and the network currently includes 33 cities from 22 countries.