150 years of serving humanity

The Swiss Red Cross seeks to improve the quality of seniors’ life. Older people should be able to lead an active, interesting, high-energy life, feel significant and fulfilled. In case an older person has health problems that prevent them from leading an active life, the person should receive medical and social assistance, together with a proper care.

One of the opportunities to lead an active and fulfilling life for an older person if to join some group, to become part of a community. To facilitate this process, the Swiss Red Cross has shared with the Belarus Red Cross Society a work approach with vulnerable groups, including the elderly, based on the principles of voluntary active participation. The participative community work approach is implemented by the Belarus Red Cross Society to create self-help initiative groups. Each initiative group consists of elderly volunteers who assist to particular elderly persons, but what is important is that those who provide assistance and those who get it can swap the roles. Thus, the socially vulnerable people become volunteers themselves and provide feasible assistance to other persons who need it even more. This is how the social isolation of the elderly is overcome. Currently the initiative groups operate in the Brest, Viciebsk, Hrodna, and Minsk regions.

Elderly people in need of home care are assisted by the Belarus Red Cross Society visiting nurses. The nurses help persons with serious illnesses, persons with disabilities, and those who cannot take care of themselves, first of all, the lonely elderly and the elderly living alone. Visiting nurses perform medical procedures, deliver medicines, provide the elderly with psychological support, as well as help the elderly to maintain hygiene, do housework, make payments. The support provided by the Swiss Red Cross for the period of over 10 years helped to make the work of the Visiting Nurses Service more effective. The level of professionalism and quality of care have increased, the resource base has improved, the system of teaching the basics of home care for volunteers, relatives and neighbors of the elderly in need of care has been introduced.

Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) are the main cause of death. They account for 2/3 of deaths worldwide and 90% of deaths in Belarus. The Swiss Red Cross is working to prevent non-communicable diseases and is supporting the “Community Action for Health” project.

Volunteer initiative groups were created, having united active persons who wish to lead a healthier lifestyle and help other community members, including their neighbors, colleagues, friends, classmates, neighborhood residents. Each volunteer accompanies two or more persons, evaluating their risk of non-communicable diseases development, helping them to conduct a personal plan on NCD prevention and on leading a healthy lifestyle, as well as supporting the implementation of the plan on a regular basis. Training of medical workers and volunteers was organized.

The Swiss Red Cross finances humanitarian assistance for lonely elderly people and persons with disabilities, single-parent and large families in Belarus. Parcels with food, baby food and toys, clothes, shoes, and stationery arrive from Switzerland every year and are distributed among those in need.

Also, the Swiss Red Cross finances the purchase of food for persons in need in Belarus. The recipients of parcels selected by the territorial centers of social services are provided with basic nutrition for three months. Another area of humanitarian assistance is providing hot meals to homeless persons.

As a result of the armed conflict in Ukraine, over 100,000 persons arrived in Belarus from the Donetsk and Luhansk regions. The forced migrants suffer from a difficult financial situation and feel psychologically vulnerable. The Swiss Red Cross helps those who need it most.

Its objective is to satisfy the needs of 1,300 people in food and hygiene for the period of six months. The refugees receive vouchers that in certain stores can be exchanged for food, hygiene products, clothing, and other goods, except for tobacco products, alcoholic beverages, and jewelry. In addition, upon a migrant’s appeal and its consideration by the commission, migrants’ expenses for medical services (chemotherapy, surgical and obstetric care) and pharmacy products can be covered.

The help is provided to the most vulnerable persons, such as the lonely elderly with disabilities who have faced problems in receiving pensions, allowances, or medical services; families that have arrived without a breadwinner; families with many children; pregnant women and nursing mothers.

Related Resources
Better noncommunicable disease outcomes: challenges and opportunities for health systems: Belarus Country Assessment (2016)
A multidisciplinary team of regional experts and WHO staff carried out and assessment of tendencies in the sphere of noncommunicable diseases, health system achievements, examples of best practices and prepared recommendations.
Old Age in Belarus: Global AgeWatch Index
Old Age in Belarus: Global AgeWatch Index
How to Measure Quality of Life in the Older Age?
Today two main tools are used to measure the quality of older age. Those are Active Ageing Index and Global AgeWatch Index.
Global AgeWatch Index 2015 Review resume — HelpAgeInternational
AgeWatch Index measures opportunities of older people covering 96 countries and 91% of the world population aged 60 and over.
Healthy and Active Ageing: the Experience of the Countries Where People Live Long and Well
How to live better, apart from living longer? Prepared by the Swiss Red Cross in Belarus.
Map of the initiative groups of older people
The Map represents the map of Belarus with pinpoints of towns and cities where active participation of the elderly in communities is advocated. As of February 1, 2017, 53 initiative groups of older people, including 8 resource groups, operate in 4 regions of the country.
“Empowering Older Persons Through the Implementation of the Participatory Community Work Approach”: Resume of the research Swiss Red Cross, 2016
The experience of active work in the communities was researched in Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Bulgaria. Authors: Raisa Sinelnikova (Belarus) and Andrew Humphrey (Portugal).
Ageing and Health
Ageing in numbers and facts. Forecasts for Belarus, region and the world. Health care systems development considering population ageing. Prepared by the Swiss Red Cross in Belarus.