Syria: Older People at Risk of Exclusion From Post-Earthquake Services, Support

New Research Shows Lack of Access to Shelter, Medicines, Assistive Products

GAZIANTEP, March 15, 2023  Older people in Syria are at serious risk of exclusion from post-earthquake recovery efforts, HelpAge USA said today. Humanitarian actors should direct support and services to those most at risk, including older people.

“The humanitarian response to the catastrophic earthquake in Syria has been slow and inadequate, risking the lives and health of older people, in particular,” said Cindy Cox-Roman, CEO of HelpAge USA. “Governments and humanitarian actors must do everything possible to ensure adequate funding for the response and that life-saving goods and services reach older people, who are facing serious barriers.”

On February 6, 2023, a 7.7 magnitude earthquake hit southern Turkey and parts of Syria, particularly the northwest, followed by thousands of aftershocks. This week marks 12 years since the start of the armed conflict in Syria.

A recent UN-led survey of people and organizations involved in Syria involved in the humanitarian response to the earthquake found that older people are the most likely to face risks to their lives and well-being due to the lack of accessible services.

Among 100 people surveyed, 85% stated older people are the most at-risk group, especially if they are living in poverty and/or providing care to household members. 

Eighty-one percent of interviewees identified specific gaps in services for older people. These include safe and adequate shelter, health services and medicine, psychosocial support services, adult diapers, and assistive devices. According to initial assessments by UNHCR, an estimated 5 million people will need shelter assistance in Syria as a result of the earthquake.

In addition, survey interviewees reported that people with chronic illnesses and disabilities in Syria are also at higher risk. 

The United Nations (UN) estimates more than 364,000 people have been displaced as a result, exacerbating the world’s largest internal displacement crisis. More than 4,500 deaths and 8,700 injuries have been reported in north-west Syria.

This week, the UN Syria Commission of Inquiry criticized the humanitarian response to the earthquakes as failing to deliver urgent and lifesaving assistance to northwest Syria. There has also been no agreement for an immediate pause in ongoing armed hostilities, which also hampers relief efforts.

“Twelve years of conflict has taken a devastating toll on the physical and mental health of older people,” said Cox-Roman. “Local organizations are doing everything possible to reach those most in need, but they can’t do it alone. They require sufficient funding and the ability to direct it to those who need it most.”

According to Mustafa Alokoud, Executive Director of Hope Revival, a HelpAge USA partner organization in Syria providing humanitarian assistance, “It is vital to have dedicated funding to develop programs and activities that are specifically tailored for older people. We cannot allow them to go unseen.”

For more information, interviews, and personal stories, photos, and video footage, contact Alex Garvey at agarvey@helpageusa.org, 205-914-4580.

About HelpAge USA
HelpAge USA advances the rights, well-being, and inclusion of older people around the world. As part of the HelpAge Global Network, HelpAge USA works to ensure that the contributions of all older people are recognized, and they have the right to a healthy, safe, and secure life. Visit us at helpageusa.org.

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