HELP AGE INTERNATIONAL OLDER PEOPLE IN EMERGENCIES IDENTIFYING AND REDUCING RISKS
“When conflict or disaster shatters communities and public services, older people’s health is at risk because they are unable to get the care they need.”
HelpAge International has identified the following main areas in which older people may be affected by disasters and humanitarian crises:
Nutrition -in humanitarian crises older people are vulnerable to poor nutrition. Markets or food distribution points can be difficult for them to reach and food aid packages do not cater for older people’s particular nutritional requirements.
Psychological and Mental Health -the psychological toll of conflict, disaster and insecurity on older people can may include high levels of anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder among older people affected by humanitarian crises.
Income and livelihoods - income can be disrupted in humanitarian crises as older people may lose access to their land, property, be prevented from carrying on their usual work, or collecting a pension. Older people who are primary carers for children and other dependents may be unable to carry on with their duties.
Violence and harm - in conflict and disasters, older people can be more vulnerable to physical, sexual and psychological abuse. Older people may become victims of attack as a result of perceived vulnerability.
Isolation- Families often become separated from one another in crises. Older people who are physically unable to flee are left behind and are unable to access the services and assistance they need.
Lack of Age-Friendly Assistance- shelter, water supplies and latrines are rarely designed to take account of the disabilities and limited strength and mobility of many older people. Health facilities may not be physically accessible, while relief distributions require strength and stamina to get to. Visual and other sensory disabilities can prevent older people from accessing or understanding information about available assistance and services.
Property Rights and Personal Documentation -In the chaos and destruction that follows conflicts, disasters and population displacement, important documents related to personal identity and ownership of homes, land and other property, birth certificates or marriage certificates can be lost and may prevent older adults from being able to receive help, assistance and claim rights and entitlements.
Help Age has published a helpful guide, ‘Older People in Emergencies, Identifying and Reducing Risks’ which suggests the following on how to help the elderly in the event of disaster, conflict or humanitarian crisis:
• Before the crisis identify older people living alone, plan outreach activities in case of an emergency and prepare mobility and adaptive aids.
• After the crisis ensure that information and updates are accessible to older people in a communication method and language they understand.
• Ensure that older people have appropriate documentation to identify themselves to access humanitarian and state-provided social services.
• Set up a system through which younger, able-bodied relatives or neighbors can collect the food on the older person’s behalf or arrange “home” delivery for the most vulnerable older people.
• Advocate and liaise with authorities to enable access and transportation for older adults who remain behind.
• Before a crisis involve and prioritize older people in evacuation, preparedness and disaster risk reduction plans and activities.
• Build shelter in the area of return for isolated older people and those without family support.
• Incorporate the installation of age-friendly features – such as ramps, handrails, grab bars and lighting into repair and construction of temporary shelters with international guidelines on accessibility in mind.
• Ensure sufficient space and facilities for toilets and latrines to enable dignified use and build in close proximity to older people.
• Provide agricultural and livelihood support for older people who are caring for children.
• Include older women in gender- based violence prevention and response programs.
• Train community health workers to identify and address acute malnutrition in older people, provide nutrition education and ensure that severely malnourished older people are referred to hospital for assessment.
• Use community health workers to identify older people who are unable to reach health facilities and provide home-based care or transport for referral to the health center or hospital. It may be necessary to make sure that somebody is accompanying the older person.
HelpAge International works to meet the needs, uphold the rights and recognize the capacities of older people in humanitarian crises.
Elderly Emergency Response
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