Safeguarding older people in
humanitarian crises and disasters.
HelpAge is the only international development agency that focuses specifically on older people’s needs in crises. Less than 1% of all humanitarian funding goes toward protecting them, even though they are especially at risk at these times. For instance, 66% of the people who died in Japan during the tsunami were older, yet they represent just 27% of the population.
HelpAge coordinates with international
NGOs and local responders to answer core needs.
Older people are often unable to access humanitarian aid safely and with dignity. They may be separated from their families, which can lead to isolation and loneliness. They may have disabilities that put them at a disadvantage, physical and psychological distress, and specific health and nutritional needs. In disasters, they face an even higher risk of being unable to access healthcare, and many are subject to discrimination and abuse.
Health Care and Medicine
We ensure that older people are protected with adequate healthcare and counseling. We make sure shelters and latrines are age and disability-friendly. We provide assistive devices such as walking sticks, wheelchairs, glasses, and hearing aids. And we train workers on UN Humanitarian inclusion standards for older people and people with disabilities.
Our community health workers diagnose and treat non-communicable disease such as diabetes and hypertension. We distribute safe drinking water and promote healthy sanitation behaviors to reduce the risk of disease.
Specific Dietary and Nutritional Needs
We facilitate older people’s access to food and help them reach distributions centers. We evaluate the food for its energy composition, micronutrient content as well as palatability, chewability and digestibility. We make sure food packages include nutritional items such as dietary fibers, protein, and vitamins to help protect their immune system.
Mobility Challenges and Disabilities
We address disabilities, which affect 46% of adults over 60 and prevent many from fleeing in emergencies. And evacuation warnings often don’t reach those with sensory disabilities, such as hearing loss or blindness.
"My eyes and head were bleeding...I don't know what happened, even the hospital was destroyed."
– Hayat Taleb, Beirut blast victim
Our ways of working in disasters
- HelpAge conducts vulnerability assessments to select beneficiaries and identifies individual needs.
- We create age-friendly spaces where older people can feel safe and receive services and information.
- Cash grants are provided to meet basic needs.
- Together with our local partners, HelpAge deploys multidisciplinary outreach teams including health and social workers to support those most at risk.
- Our volunteers provide home-based care for people who are immobile and refer cases to other organizations if HelpAge isn’t offering a needed service.
- Our community health workers provide psychosocial support especially for trauma survivors in conflict zones.
- We encourage active engagement of older people through the creation of peer-to-peer networks.
- HelpAge also leads Age and Disability Technical Working Groups to advocate for the rights and inclusion of older people.
Preparing for future emergencies
Community Emergency Preparation
We implement emergency preparedness plans by working across our network of Older People’s Associations to help communities in disaster-prone areas assess and mitigate risks such as malnutrition, disease, and crop damage.
We engage with global humanitarians, civil society responders, and local responders to help them implement best practices for including older people in emergency preparedness and disaster risk reduction.
We advocate for governments and multilateral institutions to make policies and programs age-inclusive. Our initiatives range from improving national emergency response plans to coordinating global commitments for inclusion.
Our crisis and humanitarian work in action
Older People from COVID-19
We distribute COVID-19 information; hand out PPE, hygiene kits, and nutrition packs; and advocate for vaccine access and the inclusion of older people’s voices.
Older Rohingya Refugees
In Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar, the world’s largest refugee camp, we work with local partners to meet the needs of older Rohingya refugees and make sure their voices are heard.
People in Ukraine
We provide psychosocial support and home-based care to older people who have been affected by the protracted crisis in Ukraine—many of whom have lost everything.
HelpAge works with the Age and Disability Capacity Programme to make sure older people and people with disabilities are not left behind in crises and are included in decision-making.