Supporting older people whose lives have been
devastated by the Ukraine crisis.
Older people are disproportionately affected by the crisis
More than ten million people have now fled their homes in Ukraine due to the Russian invasion. For older Ukrainians, the situation is particularly dangerous. One out of four people in Ukraine is over the age of 60, making it one of the oldest populations in the world. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has determined that 32% of those in humanitarian need are 60+ years of age.
Regardless of whether they stay or flee, older Ukrainians are now increasingly vulnerable to violence and neglect. A Rapid Needs Assessment conducted by HelpAge in Ukraine highlights the urgent needs of older people as the conflict continues to escalate:
- 91% of older people report that they do not have enough food to eat
- 79% of older people report that they do not have access to sufficient clean drinking water
- 34% of older people require urgent medication for their chronic illnesses
- 75% of older people report that they need hygiene items such as toothpaste, soap, and toilet paper
In Moldova, a Rapid Needs Assessment conducted by HelpAge provides a snapshot of older Ukrainian refugees at the border and in refugee centers.
- 27% of older people are unsure if they will stay in Moldova, underscoring the chaos and uncertainty that many refugees face.
- 28% of older people report urgently needing medication including for diabetes, blood pressure, and pain relief.
- 25% reported that they do not have access to sufficient hygiene supplies such as soap, shampoo, and toothbrushes.
In Poland, among the 2.3 million refugees, an estimated 20% are 65+ years of age. A Rapid Needs Assessment conducted among older refugees in Poland found that:
- 63% need urgent medication and 40% report needing urgent medical attention.
- 45% report needing assistive products, including eyeglasses.
- 51% report they lack sufficient cash for essentials.
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.