In Conversation with Nahla Zeitoun, World Bank: Working Together to Improve the Quality of Life of Older People in the MENA region

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Nahla Zeitoun, a Senior Social Protection Specialist at the World Bank Regional Office, discusses the key areas for policy considerations to enhance the lives of older people in the region. This conversation was part of regional MENARAH engagement activities that took place in 2021-22, facilitated by a Partnership and Engagement Grant from the London School of Hygiene.

Ms Zeitoun stresses the imminent need for governments in the region to put in place social protection measures for older people as the region is going through a fast-paced demographic transition. She highlights the cases of Egypt and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, where she has direct responsibilities as part of her portfolio. For Egypt, Ms Zeitoun, explains the competing social protection priorities across different population age groups, especially in relation to younger people. With young median age and large cohorts of younger adults, Egypt’s policy landscape is shaped by the demands of this age group in relation to job creation, education and social needs. However, she argues that the same cohorts will eventually grow older, and policymakers need to think about this transition now to prepare them for ageing healthy and with dignity.

Ms Zeitoun realises that there are considerable leaps to be taken to ensure that the younger cohorts of now will have the quality of life and the necessary opportunities and infrastructure as they grow older. She calls for strong partnership working and collaborations across the states, international organisations, non-governmental organisations and active platforms like MENARAH to put together actionable plans within the coming years. Such plans should consider the various needs of the population as they grow older, from social protection and long-term care needs to employment and life-long learning opportunities.

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Professor of Health and Social Care Policy, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, UK

Shereen Hussein is a Professor of Health and Social Care Policy at the Department of Health Services Research and Policy (HSRP) at the LSHTM. She is a Co-Director of the PRUComm policy research unit. She is also an Honorary Professor at the University of Kent and King’s College London in the UK and the University of Southern Queensland in Australia.

Shereen is a demographer with expertise in labour-migration, sociology and economics. Her primary research revolves around ageing, family dynamics, migration and long-term care. Shereen has previously worked with the United Nations, the Population Council, the World Bank, and the League of Arab States. Her current research focuses on ageing demographics, long term care demand and migration within the UK and Europe and the implications on policy and practice.

Shereen has conducted extensive research on population ageing and its impact on long term care and health policy and practices in the UK, internationally and in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. She has contributed to recent United Nations’ policy response to ageing in the region through collaboration with UN-ESCWA and directly providing expert consultations to several countries in the region including Turkey, Oman and Egypt. Shereen leads many large research projects on ageing and long-term care in the UK and contributes to a large project addressing responses to dementia in developing countries STRiDE. Shereen is the founder and lead of the MENARAH network.