The World Health Organization (WHO) on Thursday called for efforts to provide better care and support to elderly people across Africa amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Senior citizens in the region require more love, support, and occasional calls to inquire about their needs, Matshidiso Moeti, WHO regional director for Africa, said in a message on the International Day for Older Persons, marked annually on Oct. 1.

She said restrictions on movement, gatherings, and the increased social isolation due to COVID-19 have placed a greater burden on the lives of older people.

“We can contribute to addressing this by picking up the phone to call our senior relatives and offering to assist older people in our communities or keep them company,” Moeti advised.

She said the key challenges to elderly people’s care in Africa were a lack of comprehensive longterm care systems, low coverage of social protection schemes, and inadequate data to shape policy interventions.

The WHO official stressed that there is a growing need to address these issues, as the number of elderly people in sub-Saharan Africa is projected to reach 67 million by 2025.