100 Days On: New Survey Highlights Risks to Millions Of Older People in Ukraine

For Immediate Release

(Washington, DC) Millions of older people impacted by the war in Ukraine risk being overlooked in the humanitarian response, HelpAge USA said today. OIder people make up one-quarter of Ukraine’s population.

June 4 marks 100 days since Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24.

A new HelpAge survey reveals many of the risks faced by older people displaced by the war and highlights their specific needs, ahead of this grim milestone.

From May 6-11, 2022, HelpAge interviewed 569 people, including 218 who were over 60, who fled conflict in eastern Ukraine and are currently in western and central Ukraine.

Key findings include:

  • Almost nine out of ten older people interviewed (89%) have a health condition, including hypertension, heart problems, joint aches and pains, and gastrointestinal issues.
  • 71% of those with a health condition have more than one.
  • Yet only 43% have the medication they require, with 12% reporting they have no access at all.
  • 43% have at least one disability, including mobility, vision, memory, and communication disabilities.
  • Almost three-quarters (74%) said their biggest need was cash, which would enable them to access what they need most.
  • 8% have no access to safe drinking water
  • Only half are formally registered as Internally Displaced People and receive social benefits.
  • More than two-thirds (69%) said that they had yet to be consulted by a humanitarian agency.

“HelpAge’s new survey should be a wake-up call for urgent action to address the very real and serious needs of older people in Ukraine. The humanitarian system too often fails to respond to older people’s specific needs,” said Justin Derbyshire, HelpAge International’s CEO. “We need to see action now for Ukraine and other emergencies around the world where older people are at serious risk of being ignored.”

There are currently more than 8 million Ukrainians who are internally displaced, and 6.6 million who have fled the country as refugees. The older people among them often require specific support for evacuation, navigating new locations, and accessing services and essential goods. Many of them are supporting others, including children or other older adults.  

In addition, across the country, many older people remain within their homes, many in areas of intense fighting. They require access to shelter, food, water, medicines, emotional support and access to their pensions.

“Older people often do not have the ability or desire to leave their homes like younger people do. They may have nowhere else to go or do not wish to leave their familiar surroundings and ancestral land,” said Cindy Cox-Roman, CEO of HelpAge USA. “At the same time, they face indiscriminate and targeted attacks, with reports of killings, torture, rape, property destruction and looting.”

A third of all people affected by the conflict in Ukraine since 2014 are over 60.

HelpAge has been operating in Ukraine since 2014, and its network of volunteers provides mental health services to people isolated in their homes in eastern Ukraine. Since February, HelpAge has distributed essential food and hygiene items to thousands, and is expanding life-saving aid and services to regions with high concentrations of displaced people.

In a new advocacy brief: No Time for Business as Usual, HelpAge outlines key recommendations for the humanitarian response. HelpAge is calling on humanitarian organizations to ensure consistent and comprehensive inclusion of older people so their needs are met wherever they are located.

Countries hosting refugees from Ukraine must also ensure that older people’s rights are upheld, including prioritization at border and transit points and protection for those facing additional risks, such as older people with disabilities and older women.

UN bodies must also provide leadership to ensure the inclusion of older people in the wider humanitarian response. This includes increased staff with expertise in older people at OCHA, the UN’s humanitarian coordination agency, and its refugee agency, UNHCR. UN agencies and other humanitarian actors should also collect anonymized gender, age, and disability data to inform policies and programs that are responsive to the needs of older people. Donors and governments must also require the inclusion of older people and monitoring and reporting on implementation as part of their humanitarian funding.

For more information see: https://helpageusa.org/ukraine-crisis/

To arrange an interview, contact Cindy Cox-Roman, CEO, HelpAge USA, ccoxroman@helpageusa.org; (202) 486-4567

Interview opportunities available (with pictures):

Testimonies from older people who fled eastern Ukraine and are now in the city of Dnipro:

Ana, 62, tells of life at home in Severodonetsk before she was evacuated with four generations of her family to Dnipro.

Lyubov, 77, who left her home in eastern Ukraine after shelling blew out the windows. She now uses an old sewing machine to update clothes, while living in an IDP shelter in Dnipro.

Raisa, 71, was evacuated in May with her husband, Alexander, from their home in Severodonetsk, where they say there had been no water, electricity or gas since the war started. They have not seen members of their family since 2014.

Valentina, 81, was born in Russia and moved to Ukraine as a child. She sees herself as part of the generation that built her hometown of Severodonetsk. She shares details of her life before the war and the challenges she now faces as an IDP in Dnipro with her sister and brother-in-law.

Valentina, 68, left Lisichansk with her youngest son and grandson and worries desperately for the family she left behind.

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