Supporting older people whose lives have been
devastated by the war in Ukraine.
Older people are disproportionately affected by the conflict
UKRAINE has the largest number of older people impacted by conflict anywhere in the world, with one out of four people over 60.
The war is devastating the lives of millions. For older Ukrainians, the situation is particularly dangerous. They face obstacles to flee unsafe areas and begin life somewhere else. Or, they may choose to remain in their homes and communities despite the risks. Many of them are supporting children, adults with disabilities, or other older adults.
Whether they flee or remain, older Ukrainians are vulnerable to violence, hunger, and neglect.
HelpAge interviews with hundreds of older people in Ukraine found:
- 89% have a health condition, such as high blood pressure, heart conditions, joint or muscle pain, and digestive issues.
- Yet, only 43% have the medication they require and 12% have no access to their medications at all.
- 43% have at least one disability, including related to mobility,
- vision, memory, and communication.
- 74% said they do not have sufficient resources to access essentials.
- Large numbers cannot access existing humanitarian aid because of lack of information about what services are available; lack of support to leave their homes; and difficulty in traveling large distances to centralized aid points.
HelpAge supports thousands of older displaced Ukrainians with food kits, hygiene items, assistive devices, mental health support, and home and community-based services.
POLAND Among the 5 million Ukrainian refugees currently in other countries, thousands of older people are currently in Poland. They have faced long and difficult journeys to reach safety. Their top needs are:
- Financial support
- Access to medicine, and
- Support in returning home, for those who wish to do so.
HelpAge is supporting older refugees in Poland with cash assistance and local services that assist older Ukrainians and their families in adapting to new communities and preventing isolation.
MOLDOVA Thousands of Ukrainians have also fled to Moldova, where they live in temporary shelters or, increasingly, in rented accommodation or with relatives in local communities.
HelpAge provides older Ukrainian refugees with assistive devices and hygiene items, including through outreach to those who cannot leave their homes, and is setting up community resource centers where refugees can access different services in one location, including psychosocial support, legal aid, and referrals.
HelpAge also advocates for stronger protections and consistent, comprehensive humanitarian support to older people in Ukraine.
We call on all parties to the conflict and on all humanitarian donors and actors to ensure:
- Safe, rapid, and unimpeded humanitarian access to ensure older people and people with disabilities who have not been able to leave their homes, including those in institutions, can be reached, can access essential life-saving support and tailored assistance, and can be evacuated to safety.
- Older Ukrainians who have fled can access full basic services, including food, water, healthcare, mental health support, pensions, transport, and information. Support should be decentralized to reach those outside of metropolitan areas. No one should be forced to move into institutions.
- Active consultation and inclusion of older people in humanitarian assessments and program design, implementation, and monitoring.
Uniquely positioned to protect older people
HelpAge is uniquely positioned to respond to the needs of older people and their families in Ukraine. We have been working in Ukraine to support older people affected by the conflict in 2014 with lifesaving essentials such as food, medicines, and mental health support. HelpAge is one of only five international nonprofits working with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in this conflict.
As the conflict continues, we are responding to the most urgent needs of older people, people with disabilities, and their families. We have expanded our emergency relief program so that we can get aid to those who need it most – in Ukraine and to those who have been able to flee to neighboring countries such as Moldova and Poland. We are scaling up to serve more than 430,000 older people, people with disabilities, and their families.
We are helping older people and their families with life-saving assistance such as:
- Specially tailored food packages and clean water
- Hygiene kits, assistive devices, and other essentials to keep them safe
- Cash assistance to meet basic needs
- Mental health support and counseling
- Clean water and hygiene facilities
Our Call to Action
We call on all parties to the conflict and on humanitarian actors responding to the crisis to ensure that:
- Safe, rapid, and unimpeded humanitarian access is in place to ensure older people and those with disabilities can be reached, can access essential life-saving humanitarian support, can receive tailored and prioritized assistance, and can be evacuated to safety.
- Older Ukrainians who have fled to other areas of the country can access full basic services including food and water, healthcare, mental health support, and social services, such as pensions, transportation, and information. Those who have been evacuated should not be forced to move into institutions.
- Refugee host countries must ensure that older people’s rights are upheld, including ensuring dignified reception at border and transit points with prioritization procedures for the crossing of older people; respect for family unity and facilitation of older people reuniting and settling with family members; prioritization of protection for those facing additional risks, such as older women and those with disabilities; and provision of access to national health and social protection systems.
- Older men and women should be included in humanitarian assessments and program activities to ensure that they are provided with appropriate humanitarian protection and assistance.
Tamara, 72, is one of the millions that have fled Ukraine for Moldova. She provides a harrowing account of living under the shelling by Russian forces. She describes, “The children were left under the rubble. There are rockets. Women in labor give birth in the Kyiv metro.”
HelpAge USA is raising money for our Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal to support our work for older people affected by the conflict in Ukraine. Any income not spent after twelve months past the end of the appeal may be allocated to another emergency that requires our support.